Snowpiercer

Went to see the limited release South Korean with Korean/American cast Snowpiercer… a movie with a lot of film buzz because of the director’s previous work and the fight he had with the Weinsteins to get it released in the US without 20-30 minutes worth of cuts. He got his full length movie (for good and bad) – it’s been rolling out slowly over the past few weeks and finally opened near me… on the same day it’s also available steaming via iTunes and other home services. I caught it at the movies.

This is a semi-preposterous concept serving an alright sci-fi action movie. Attempts to curb global warming have a cascade effect in the opposite direction and the world freezes… the only survivors are herded onto a very long train that has to keep moving along a track that encircles the globe or else, I guess, it freezes up and everyone dies. The poor and desperate mobs are in the back of the train, the rich in the front. The poor are told that everyone has their place and they should stay where they belong. They live in crowded train cars with “protein packs” for food while the rich have sushi, caviar, saunas, and night clubs.

It’s a huge allegorical film that isn’t completely happy keeping it’s pretty blatant message potentially unheard so someone says, “The train is humanity!” outright at one point. Kind of drove their point home a little too hard given the subtext was pretty much text in the first place. As though they didn’t think this whole “the rich stay rich at the expense of the poor” message wasn’t clear enough.

But, anyhow, the tone of this movie is odd – it has a weird sense of humor for such an otherwise somber and serious film. But I think that quirky weirdness served the film well and kept it from taking itself too seriously… it’s one of the saving graces the film has since it’s otherwise kind of boring, especially in its first half. There are action scenes here that should have been a lot better than they were, character moments that didn’t work since we didn’t know the characters yet, and story structure problems that kept me from engaging.

It’s not a bad movie and it picks up a bunch in its second half though some people may be annoyed that it kind of turns into a talk-fest (in fact, it reminded me a LOT of Matrix Reloaded for multiple reasons).

I mentioned the cast… well, it stars some South Korean actors whose names I do not know and also Chris Evans (Captain America – doing a great job with some difficult and emotional dialog), Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, and Tilda Swinton (doing a gonzo roll). What was cool about the American cast is that the director didn’t feel the need to treat them as anything special so I was surprised by how their stories turned out (which is a plus for any film).

If you’re a fan of Korean films, indie sci-fi flicks, or are just a film fan aware of the movie’s rocky history, it’s kinda worth checking out. Anyone else may want to think twice. I was kind of into it and kinda bored at various times and I think the film doesn’t hang together… plus its script, while generally good, couldn’t leave well enough alone and assume the audience was smart enough to get the allegory (“The train is humanity!”).

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