Sunday, July 6, 2014

NEW REVIEW: Snowpiercer


In the near future, a botched attempt to avert the effects of Climate Change leads to a frozen age where everyone but a select few survive.  These people live on a constantly moving train built like an ecosystem, with the 1% at the front and the poorest relegated to the rear.  (Yes, it's got a political message)

An eccentric buck-toothed woman (Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel), backed by uniformed guards, keeps order in this totalitarian system, assuring the people that "everyone has his place" in the society as determined by the designer of the train that runs on a global track through icy mountain sides and snow-covered land.   The people in the back of the train are beaten down by the guards, made to eat strange "protein blocks" and their children are routinely taken away for unknown reasons.  A band of self-appointed warriors, led by Curtis Everett (Chris Evans, Captain America), are planning a rebellion against these oppressors.

The plan is a risky dream, until it is discovered that the guards' ammunition seemingly ran out years ago.  This opens the opportunity for a fight to reach the engine in the front and take over the train. Enlisting the drug-addicted train security designer, Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho, The Host) and his daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung, After the Banquet) to help them open the various gates throughout the train. As they implement this plan and start moving forward, they find that each compartment is increasingly cleaner and richer.   We see train cars with pools, aquariums, clubs, and an especially odd one where children are taught that the people in the rear are terrorists.  Not subtle, true, but beautifully rendered imagery nonetheless.

The film does sometimes get a bit lost during its action sequences, which slow down the story a bit.  Every moment, every move, every intruding snowflake is lingered on for maximum effect.

One could question the purpose of certain characters, like a seemingly unstoppable killer who comes at Curtis and his crew along the way, or whether the ending featuring Ed Harris (The Truman Show) as the train's founder makes much sense.  But there's no denying that the production design, most of the acting and the unusual setting are imaginative and interesting.

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