Monday, July 14, 2014

Movie Review: "Snowpiercer" (2013)

Director: Joo-ho Bong
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes
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In the not-too-distant future, global climate change has reached a high. In an effort to combat it, mankind has sprayed a chemical across the sky to help cool the planet. Unfortunately, this chemical causes the global temperature to drop to sub-zero levels, creating a mass extinction of almost all life on the planet. The only humans that survive the extinction are on a self-sustaining train called Snowpiercer. This is not just your ordinary locomotive, it is a luxury train that never stops moving along its global track. On this train exists a class system: those on the tail-end live in poverty under tyrant rule and only eat gelatinous protein cubes. Those in the front where the engine is live in luxury, eating steaks and real food that is raised on the train. After 17 years of living in the tail, the passengers are ready to revolt and take over the train for themselves. A passenger named Curtis (Chris Evans), under the advice of older man named Gilliam (John Hurt), leads an army of tail-section passengers on a raid to take over the train and kill the conductor, Wilford (Ed Harris). Wilford is viewed as a infallible savior by those in the front sections, but is seen as an evil dictator by those in the back. 

Though this movie did not get a lot of box office attention compared to movies like "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "Snowpiercer" is one that will be sadly overlooked by the general public, but is waaaaay better in terms of story, style and impact. It offers a god-awful look at our own perpetrated dystopian future, aided by global warming, and our efforts to combat it in the easiest way possible, resulting in our demise. Though the idea of a class system is not a new plot point in cinema, this movie manages to take it to the next level by maximizing the problem, keeping everyone in a confined environment, yet offering no chance for advancement. This leaves those at the bottom hopeless and restless. All in all, this makes for an explosive dynamic between 'the haves' and 'the have nots.' The acting is not what drives this movie, it's 110% the story in all its horrific wonderment. We don't want to knock the actors from this film because they do a good job and put on really fine performances, but some of them could have been interchangeable and this movie would have remained absolutely insane and yet still so compelling. None of this applies to Tilda Swinton, however, because she is absolutely perfect for this role and was my favorite part of the movie beyond the story. It's sort of awful to think that this movie takes our present to the extreme, showing what could happen if the income gap keeps widening and climate change keeps getting worse. It leaves audiences with many thoughts and questions about our own existence in a society in the future that scarily resembles our own present.

One of the coolest parts of this movie was Joon-ho Bong's attention to detail as far as costumes and scenery go inside the train. Costumer designers did a fantastic job making the tail section riders look dirty, dingy, and gross, while simultaneously making the front-end passengers look exotic, clean, and well-polished. Even the differences in set design really made a difference. The tail-end of the train was dimly lit, depressing and dark, while the front sections are bright, energetic, and bursting with lights and sounds. Our only knock on the film is the CGI. While some parts of it are decent enough, the majority of the long shots of the train, the tracks, the cityscapes, and the engine of the train are pretty rough, pretty basic, and definitely look animated.

If you're looking for a futuristic, sci-fi non-blockbuster that remains steadfast in its message and hard-nosed in its methods, this is the film for you. It's a real treat to watch, even though it is a very violent representation of humans at our worst who often commit unspeakable acts under the guise of "for the greater good."

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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