Sunday, July 6, 2014
Snowpiercer: A Smart and Strange Summer Train Ride
An experiment to end global warming has caused an ice age that almost has wiped out the entirety of Earth's population. The only survivors make it onto a train that flies along a global railway system powered by a mysterious man and his perpetual motion machine. The basics: the rich live in luxury at the front of the train, the poor people in the rear. Guards periodically arrive in the back of the train, giving our dirty downtrodden disgusting protein blocks (they look like old cranberry sauce) and occasionally taking children for unknown reasons. At the tip of the train, a mysterious man named Wilford resides, and his rule is law.
Everything is not swell, and a rebellion is brewing: led by our humble hero Curtis (Chris Evans, better known as Captain America), the less-fortunate come up with a plan to bust through the guards and gates to overtake the train. To do so, they need the help of an engineer, Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) who spends all of his time sniffing a mind-altering drug called Kronol, and his maybe-psychic daughter Yona. With their help, they attempt to move through the seemingly-mile-long train car by car. This is one of those films that mixes humor and shock and violence with a surreal skill. You just can't wait to see what is behind the next door, and it's always surprising.
The film doesn't reach for perfection; consequently, it's not perfect: the political messages in Snowpiercer are just a backdrop for the action-adventure story and the excitement to see what weird thing is contained in the next car. And some of the special effects (mostly the outside views of the train barreling through snowdrifts and tunnels) are far from stellar. I also didn't love the ending. But these thing's don't take the enjoyment away from the weird ride. If Snowpiercer teaches us one thing, it's that we need more foreign and unique ideas thrown into American cinema. Ten years from now, I want to be watching more films like this one--not Transformers 8: Transforming Yet Again. (A-)