Tuesday, July 8, 2014


***1/2 out of ****

Korean director, Bong Joon-ho’s (Memories of Murder and The Host) first English language film is a dark surreal nightmare brought to the big screen with a morbid imaginary vision similar to the works of Terry Gilliam, Guillermo Del Toro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (especially for Delicatessen).

It takes place in a near-future world where the backfiring of a scientific solution for global warming has left the planet in a new ice age. The only living survivors have been aboard a long fast-moving train for seventeen years. Chris Evans takes a break from being Captain America to play a disgruntled revolutionary leader among the train’s rear-car impoverished passengers. As he succeeds in raiding one car after another, the movie becomes delightfully more bizarre.

A decade ago, when theatrical releases found a bigger college-age audience, a film like Snowpiercer would have found wider distribution. Now that the movies are domestically dependent on adolescent boys, a savagely “R”-rated thinking-man’s dystopian film is as endangered as the film’s characters.

The international cast also includes John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, as well as two actors from previous Bong films, Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung. This director continues to be good with ensembles and what better a project than one this claustrophobic. Every car for which the heroes advance seems like a different world preserving ways of life that make no sense in post-apocalyptic conditions.

This movie may not sound realistic and it isn’t. The only aspect I didn't care for, was gunplay in situations where the only protection between the deadly outside of the train were the surrounding windows. This reminded me of some of the pointless gunfights in the original Total Recall where one gunshot in the wrong place could end in catastrophe. No character -not even a bad guy should be this dumb. Still, this is an abstract vision where disbelief is to be suspended if you want to get onboard with the insanity of this train. 

This movie bothered me in a good way. In spite of its graphic violence, its ideas are the source of its unsettling power. Based on a French graphic novel, Bong adapts the material in a balancing act between the terrifying with the whimsically absurd. He’s made a bold piece of unforgettable science fiction cinema.

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