Film review: Snowpiercer (2013)


“Snowpiercer” with Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, and Jamie Bell

Directed by Joon-ho Bong, Written by Joon-ho Bong (screenplay), Kelly Masterson (screenplay), Jacques Lob (based on Le Transperceneige by), Benjamin Legrand (based on Le Transperceneige by), Jean-Marc Rochette (based on Le Transperceneige by)

Snowpiercer PosterScience-fiction films and television have made quite the re-emergence into pop culture over the past several years.  After decades of relative mediocrity (with only a sprinkling of gems to break the lull), blockbuster franchises like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and the superhero movie have once again revitalized the genre whilst paving the way for smaller, independent science fiction films that normally would not have made the cut, otherwise.

“Snowpiercer” is one such film— Heralded as the best sci-fi film since “Children of Men,” this international contender had a lot to live up to.  Besides touching upon similar themes of the human condition, global warming and classism, it manages to create a wonderful balancing act between the three that keeps all of the aforementioned heavy topics spinning in perfect harmony.

“Snowpiercer” takes place in the near future where global warming has run rampant and begun heating the Earth’s service to disastrous results.  Humans (in their infinite wisdom) decide to create a chemical compound to counteract this phenomenon.  Inevitably, the humans create a chemical workaround and release it into the atmosphere, which counteracts the induced global warming.  The solution is short-lived, instead of leveling off at ‘a normal’ global temperate the Earth continues to cool…plummeting it into a new ice age.

Before the great freeze, a select few are herded onto a perpetual, everlasting train that serves as the last bastion of humanity— Shielding them from the cold and providing food and comforts for the coming years, all seems well upon the Snowpiercer.  However, the people who live at the front of the train closest to the engine live a life of wealth and luxury, while the individuals who live in the tail live in near starvation and blatant poverty.

This leads to conflict.

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The film takes place 18-years after the initial boarding of the train and follows a group of the ‘tail section-ers,’ led by Curtis (Chris Evans) and Gilliam (John Hurt), as they try to change society’s rules in order preserve their people.

“Snowpiercer” is a whirlwind of action and intrigue, the plot is less about the cause of the train’s inception but rather the plight of its passengers.  It focuses upon the struggle of the impoverished as well as the decadence of the affluent.  The film is rich with symbolism—  Specifically concerning synergy.  All parts affect the greater whole, especially in reference to the human body.  The head cannot exist without the feet and humans cannot exist solely, without humanity.  Numerous facets of the human condition and the aforementioned extended analogy permeate “Snowpiercer,” resulting in a complex film that keeps audiences thinking long after the credits roll.  Coupled with excellent acting “Snowpiercer” stacks up to be one of the best sci-fi films of the decade.

00Chris Evans leads this star studded cast as the young leader (Curtis), hellbent on leading his people to a better future, John Hurt plays the aged leader (Gilliam) who is effectively passing the baton to Curtis, Jamie Bell plays Curtis’ lieutenant, Edgar, and the villains are rounded out by Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris.  Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ho round-out the cast as unlikely allies to the film’s protagonist.  All of the acting is in finest form, however, Kang-ho Song’s acting stands out in particular because of his overall screen presence and difficult scenes.  Many of his lines are delivered in Korean, however this does not diminish any of the emotion or conveyance to the audience.

As an aside, “Snowpiercer” is a South Korean directed, written, and funded film and was expected to see a wide release United States via The Weinstein Company.  However, company head, Harvey Weinstein refused to distribute the film unless 20-minutes of the film were cut and introductory and closing monologues were added.  Director Bong Joon-ho politely declined, and the film only saw a limited release in art house theaters on June 27, 2014.  Due to the high amount of critical acclaim and buzz that “Snowpiercer” has received since its limited run, it was announced on July 2 that it would be run as a wide release in the near future.

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This controversy is unfortunate, not because of the fact that it is a South Korean film, but rather the hoops that international films have to jump through to be seen—  US film companies have such a monopoly and controlling stake in the market that quality films (such as “Snowpiercer”) get shoved to the bottom shelf, solely being shown in art house cinemas or digital streaming service.  In the case, it seems as-if the quality of the film out trumped the big film companies, so tip of the hat to critics who urged film-goers to give “Snowpiercer” a watch.

If you get a chance, I urge any science-fiction fan to watch “Snowpiercer.”  If you enjoyed “Children of Men,” you’ll love “Snowpiercer.”  The acting is superb, the plot is captivating and poignant, and to top it all off director Bong Joon-ho throws in enough bits of color, flair, and quirkiness to give the film a unique flavor without taking it to obscurity.

 

“Alien”


Alien” with Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Yaphet Kotto

Directed by Ridley Scott

Science Fiction will always have a special place in my heart, whether it be in literature or in film, I have always found certain gems to latch on to throughout the years.  Personally, I find Ridley Scott’s work to be phenomenal, and his classic sci-fi movies are some of the best in the business.

Unfortunately, certain Ridley staples like “Alien” and “Blade Runner” released before my birth, and I was never fully able to appreciate them on the big screen.  Luckily for me, Merlyn’s Sci-fi and Fantasy Shop, has decided to host a monthly film night featuring sci-fi movies at the Magic Lantern Theater in downtown Spokane.  To start the monthly event off Merlyn’s began with a showing of “Alien.”

I was ecstatic!  I haven’t seen “Alien” in years, and it was the perfect opportunity to brush up on the “Alien” franchise, before “Prometheus,” in a fairly intimate setting.

“Alien” was released in 1979 too much critical acclaim.  The film follows a mining ship’s return to Earth when suddenly they are awoken out of stasis and diverted to a nearby planetoid at the urging of a distress signal.  The film then progresses as the seven-member crew stumbles across a highly antagonistic and aggressive creature merely known as the Alien as they search a long abandoned alien ship.

The Magic Lantern Theater in Spokane, WA

I won’t go to in depth into the film’s castings and plot within this post, because honestly it is one that should be watched and not read about.  And, if it hasn’t been watched after 30+ years then odds are it is not your cup of tea to begin with.  That being said, I found Ridley Scott’s art direction and style to be superb, and unlike the films to follow, “Alien” was as much about mystery, intrigue, and the unknown as it was about the horror elements.  It had that right genre blend that so few films hit nowadays.

If you get a chance to see one of your favorite films on the big screen nab it up, because sadly art houses and small theaters are dying off and chances are it won’t come back again.

Did you enjoy Ridley Scott’s “Alien”?  Have you seen “Prometheus”?  What’s your favorite sci-fi film of all-time?  

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