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Snowpiercer (2013)

2014 June 22
by profwagstaff

Be a shoe!


Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
Written by: Joon-ho Bong/Kelly Masterson/
Based on graphic novel by: Jacques Lob/Benjamin Legrand/Jean-Marc Rochette
Limited Theatrical Release Date: June 27, 2014

Joon-ho Bong is one of the most creative folks working today. The Host and Mother, while not original concepts (a monster attacking a city and another protecting her son), they were executed in ways that most of us didn’t see coming. And that’s how you make a damn movie.

Snowpiercer is no different. Here, he’s taken a graphic novel about a train full of the last inhabitants of Earth with the rich in front and the poor in back and turned it into a “Fuck the elite” parable about capitalism, sacrifice and love.

All without a love interest for anyone!

Curtis (Chris Evans) knows what it was like before the ice hit. He remembers warm days and running free. He chooses to forget because he can’t bear the memory. He was 17 when the countries of Earth sent a chemical into the air thinking that it would stop global warming. It did, alright. It went the opposite way and froze everything, killing every life on Earth. That’s when they gathered up the survivors and put them on a perpetual engine train created by a man named Wilford. The train is basically an ark, carrying everything that they could possibly carry, including prejudice against the poor.

Curtis is in the back of the train along with the other poor people of the “world.” The rich folks are on all of the front cars having the time of their lives. For 17 years, it’s been like this.

It’s time for a change.

Curtis leads the poor folk up, one car at a time, to try to get to the engine and Wilford. When they get there, they’ll control the world, right?

In just about anyone else’s hands, this movie would have been boring. It all takes place on the train. No exit. No escape. Luckily, Bong and his crew are creative enough to make this consistently interesting, exciting and even beautiful to look at. It reminded me a little of a Jean-Pierre Juenet film, there was so much attention to background detail and so many different worlds to enter in each car.

Of course, it all would have fallen apart if there hadn’t been a game cast. Led by Evans, who has never been better (that final monologue will kill you) the cast is perfect. Jamie Bell as Curtis’ right hand man who worships him. John Hurt as Curtis’ mentor. Bong’s mainstay, Kong-ho Song, as a drug addicted engineer who designed some of the mechanisms on the train. Octavia Spencer as the protective mother. Ewan Bremner as a protective father. And, of course, Tilda Swinton as Mason.

Oh, Tilda Swinton. She’s fucking amazing. She owns this role. She’s kind of batshit insane in her devotion to Wilford and the train. She’s created a character that almost seems straight out of something like The Hunger Games, but belongs in this world.

My one issue with the movie is the fact that there really didn’t seem to be much reason to keep the poor people poor. Every once in a while they were pulled out to do jobs, but rich people had jobs, too. And often they had jobs that were just like the poor peoples’ jobs. They would also pull children out of the rear car for a mystery reason, but even that doesn’t really make sense as a reason once we get an explanation. So…why, exactly, are the poor folks kept in the rear of the train? If everyone has their place…what IS their place? And why?

You could say that, in real life, there is no explanation, either. But I feel like there is. Not a good one, but an explanation still. It’s a form of slavery. Keep them poor and they will always have to work for you. But these people are, for the most part, not working. It’s more like a concentration camp. They’re kind of in the rear car just because.

But that’s kind of a small quibble, honestly. It didn’t bother me enough to not like the movie at all. It was just a minor annoyance. I kind of loved the movie overall.

I want to make sure that people see this movie. It was made by a mostly Korean crew and is completely the baby of Joon-Ho Bong. I want the studios to know that we care about movies like this. That they don’t have to water down foreign directors’ art to make money. And that we like complex stories with real characters…that also happen to have a lot of kick-ass action in them.

Many thanks to the Alamo Drafthouse for putting together a pretty awesome event. We all met in Cedar Park to take the Hill Country Flyer out to Burnet, TX. I’ve never really been on a train like that and it was a lot of fun. Director Bong was in attendance and did a fun Q&A before and after the film.


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