A Ride-Along with Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer - poster

Imagine a Mad Max mix-up of Metropolis, The City of Lost Children, Speed, Runaway Train, Cube and The Wizard of Oz, and you might form an idea of what Snowpiercer is about. On the other hand, it’s not so abstract as all that.  David Edelstein (New York Magazine) writes with greater clarity on this movie than I am now able:

O dystopia, you have o’erwhelmed our imaginations, transformed our cinemas into charnel houses, our movies into nihilistic dirges.  We drink in your ecocatastrophes, your post-apocalyptic death matches, your blood-soaked chasms between haves and have-nots.  Now, at last, comes a fun dystopian sci-fi epic — a splattery shambles with a fat dose of social satire and barely a lick of sense.  It’s Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, which must be seen to be disbelieved.

Snowpiercer - still Tilda Swinton

Snowpiercer features an exuberant performance by Tilda Swinton

The South Korean director’s first English-language film is based on a good French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige and set on a long, long, long train, which carries the frozen Earth’s only survivors after an attempt to stop global warming has backfired spectacularly.  The problem is that the population is cruelly subdivided.  The fatted Richie Riches lead lives of luxury in the front half of the train, where they pay homage in speech and song — much as North Koreans were forced to sing “No Motherland Without You” to their Supreme Leader — to the “Eternal Engine” and its inventor, Wilford, whom few have ever seen. But you don’t want to be stuck in the back, where the ragged denizens — many missing limbs — have only protein mush to eat, and where they have to watch helplessly as, seemingly at random, soldiers drag off their children.

And so what follows is a rather straightforward film about a revolt of the underclass, which can be executed in only one way: a direct linear push to the front of the train.  As the train pierces the snow, the rebels pierce through one bulkhead after another, moving further forward in the train while experiencing one stratum after another of the encapsulated core-sample which represents all of humankind.

Problem was, as Edelstein points out, it too often doesn’t make sense — there are more leaps in logic than I usually like to bear with.  A 97% Tomatometer score among top critics shows that Snowpiercer has earned nearly universal praise.  I liked it too, but am hardly gaga.  It certainly kept me engaged — until the end sequence where it got bogged down — but it could not escape its literal and figurative one-dimensional simplicity enough to overcome my incredulities.  Still though, I do applaud the great effort, concept and special-effect visuals wrought by this sci-fi indie.  6/10


One thought on “A Ride-Along with Snowpiercer

  1. Pingback: The Best and Worst of 2014 | movies remark

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