July 7, 2014

Snowpiercer: Movie Review

Snowpiercer is ambitious, fun, and cinematically adoring. For the most part, Bong Joon-ho creates a darling masterpiece that you will want to watch over and over again.

When will people learn that Futurama has provided the only answer to stop global warming; drop giant ice cubes into the ocean. The government in Snowpiercer does it differently, with disastrous effects. Now, the world is experiencing an ice age that has nearly killed all the human population. The remaining survivors live on a continuously running train called the Snowpiercer. On this train the rich live in the front and the poor live at the tail-end. Of course, the poor feel that it is wrong how they're being treated. They spend their days eating protein bars and sleeping in steel barrels. Many are missing arms and legs. Others are missing their sensibility. Curtis (Chris Evans), the unannounced leader of the tail-end survivors, wants a better life, so he teams with Namgoong Minsu (Kang-ho Song), an engineer who designed the dividing doors of the train, and Minsu's daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko), to create an uprising and dethrone the upper class. Snowpiercer is a bloody lesson in social science.

This two hour epic moves at bullet speed. The exposition is covered with action sequences and science fiction technology. A surprising amount of perfectly choreographed action occurs that is unexpected, but wholly wanted. While there is action in almost every car of the train, this is not a level-by-level boss fight type film. Joon-ho keeps the action, characters, and plot very tight, creating a partly believable story. Unfortunately, the plot suffers from the environment it is placed in. Snowpiercer is one large train. At moments it seems small and at other moments it seems huge, but it never can find a perfect balance. This one story train brings something new with each car. From botanical gardens, an aquarium slash sushi bar, a dance floor, a drug room, and a school room, the train feels like a step into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. While it's cool to see all these peculiar train cars, the logistics and layout of the train are what create implausibilities in the story. 

What keeps the story going is the dialogue and characters. Chris Evans steps into his most complex and daunting role yet as a man haunted by his evil past. Ed Harris, in a surprising cameo, plays the train's creator, Wilford, who's subtle with his ruthlessness. Can't give anything away, but he doesn't mind killing off his best friend.

Nonetheless, Snowpiercer is an ambitious feat in storytelling. The characters and dialogue save the story from plot holes and unnecessary elements, and Bong Joon-ho finds a perfect balance between fun action-adventure, serious complex character development and social commentary. 

Good Qualities: Ambitious, a fun ride, complex and haunting characters, great script.
Bad Qualities: Some plot inconveniences. 

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