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[Movie] Snowpiercer

There is a basic level of surreality you have to accept when you approach this movie, similar to when you watch a Terry Gilliam or Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. (I can’t believe it’s coincidence that one of the characters is named Gilliam.) There are things that happen that don’t necessarily make sense outside of a sort of dream logic. But if you can accept that, the experience is intense and rewarding.

Snowpiercer is gorgeous and disturbing and a bit heartbreaking. Just the way it was filmed was beautiful. Every car of the massive train has its own distinctive color palette and environment, which I loved. It goes from claustrophobic filth in the rear of the train to strangely 50s-esque, to technicolor futuristic to heartlessly gearpunk. And while there’s quite a bit of violence in the film, it’s brutal rather than titillating. People who get hit once with an ax go down and stay down. (Well, mostly.) Characters come out of the mid-film meat grinder utterly shell-shocked.

(And considering the movie I saw before this was Transformers 4, I appreciated the visual coherence among the complexity all the more.)

The plot for the movie sounds deceptively simple when summed up: Geoengineering that attempts to counter the undeniable threat of global climate change goes horribly wrong, throwing the world into a life-killing ice age. Humans take refuge on a massive train that is effectively a closed ecosystem that never ceases moving, making an entire circuit of all the continents once a year. There is a strict class system enforced with religious fervor, based on the original ticket bought by the passengers. The tail of the train is basically steerage, controlled brutally and fed on “protein cubes” with the cars becoming increasingly high class toward the engine. Curtis (Chris Evans) working with Gilliam (John Hurt) foments a rebellion and attempts to take control of the engine so they can demand equal treatment for those who live in the tail.

As you can imagine, this movie is very specifically about class, and about the way the poor are controlled, abused, and used by the wealthy. It’s also very much about the structures put in place by the wealthy in order to maintain that control—in this case to a Machiavellian, mind-bending degree. But the most pointed and brutal scenes of the movie are really the ones that involve children, both the way children are indoctrinated from an early age, and the way the children of the poor are ultimately meat for the gears of society.

The next time someone says that science fiction—nay, good science fiction—can’t or shouldn’t be political, I invite them to sit down and watch Snowpiercer. Then take a big swig from their swimming-pool-sized movie theater cup of shut-the-fuck-up.

I can’t begin to say how grateful I am that Bong Joon-ho dug in his heels and fought to keep his cut of the movie intact. If you’re one of those lucky people who live in a city where Snowpiercer is showing on its limited release, drop what you’re doing and go.

(For an excellent analysis of Snowpiercer as a movie about capitalism, see here.)

And a few SPOILERS now: 

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2014 11:48 pm (UTC)
The thing that makes this one worth seeing is the unique setting and a few sterling performances. The idea of living out your life in a huge train speeding along at hundreds of miles an hour are daunting enough without the Drama of being relegated to your one small section of the train depending on the scraps thrown your way by the ruling class.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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