The Ensemble of Snowpiercer
Thank the universe for the film Snowpiercer; finally, a dystopian sci-fi movie that someone can gush over, one that leaves a lasting effect and a certain dread in the viewer. Dread, because so much of it rings so true for today's times.
The film is set in the not-to-distant future, and of course, mankind has ruined everything. Our cure for global warming goes horribly bad and freezes the planet. All that's left of humanity is on a giant train that circles all hemispheres and takes one year to do so. It runs perpetually, never stopping, always moving, for 18 years.
"The train," as Ed Harris's "Wilford" character remarks, "is the world, and we are the humanity left in it..."
The world as seen through filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho and what a visionary he is. Those that saw another of his features, The Host knew the filmmaker would only grow and with Snowpiercer he has made a near-perfect sci-fi thriller; one that is more human than fiction and more prediction than fiction.
Chris Evans play the lead, the rebellious Curtis Everett. Jamie Bell is his partner in crime Edgar, and he delivers yet another strong performance. When is he going to be a star as big as Evans? He certainly deserves it. And it's so refreshing to see Chris Evans acting again and not just mugging for the camera or throwing around a shield. Because he is, after all, not just an excitedly gorgeous leading man; he's a talented actor. This movie lets him.
The supporting ensemble is equally as talented. Octavia Spencer adds depth and realness to the film, proving again she's going to be a lasting force in Hollywood with solid film choices under her belt. Tilda Swinton authoritarian Mason character is one of the best crafted, scariest figureheads to represent the utopian side of dystopia. Her reasoning, her speeches, her logic is scary because the tone, the rhetoric, the very essence of it is being heard in the halls of Congress, amongst the one-percent, and behind closed doors where no one where hear. She unabashedly drones out the talking points of Wilford Industries and its benevolent leader, Wilfred, from whom all grace a life flows.
Will someone please nominate this woman for an Oscar? Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer
Yes, a corporate leader has saved humanity and the corporation built the world in which humanity lives. The corporation is the world, the giver of life, and its leader, cherished like a God. Because in this world, the train, the engine, and Wilford are.
The action sequences are so brilliant you can't turn away, even if you want to. In one particularly bloody confrontation right in the middle Evans and Bell move slowly through the carnage to classical music, a macabre ballet being played out, a dance of death and despair removed from all reality.
Jamie Bell in another rock solid performance.
The movie goes all Game of Thrones with plot twists and character's reaching untimely ends. Like GoT I won't spoil it, but know, like GoT, no one and nothing is sacred. If you think you can predict the ending, who everyone really is, and how they fit in, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you're wrong.
As those from the back move towards the front, America, the world, is reflected in their faces. How can so many struggle and die in squaller at the back when people sip tea, have facials and dance in furs in nightclubs in the front.
A particularly eerie scene takes place when in the middle of a revolution they stop for sushi. To hear Swinton (who really needs a supporting Oscar nod for this but sadly won't get it) rationalize why they only eat the sushi twice a year...I could hear the Koch Brother's and Boehner sitting around talking about the American poor in the same way in my head. The horror on the faces of those in the back and they wonder how these people can live oblivious to their suffering and then to hear them justify it all in the name of the greater good...again, more prediction than fiction.
Snowpiercer is new to us, but it's not new. It was release in 2013 in South Korea and did relatively well. Critical acclaim has been across the board near-gushing, last check 97 percent on the tomato-meter. It's been given a limited release in the U.S., largely because the Wienstein Company, read Harvey, wanted to cut the ending and the director said no. So now, it will roll out in eight cities, and if it does well, they'll roll it out to more.
Yet, everyone in my showing at the wonderfully redecorated Art Theatre in Long Beach, CA wasn't optimistic it would make it to the masses. It's not a film the one-percent want us to see. They'd rather us immerse ourselves in Tammy or the mega-expensive and utterly boring new Transformers film. Meanwhile, a film of substance, of depth, a film with great acting, incredible adventure, wonderful special effects and a very chilling premise will languish. Hopefully it will be discovered on streaming and DVD and be the classic it was meant to become. Forget the Hunger Games franchise, if you want to see a real piece of dystopian humanity, this is it.
On a side note, at the Art Theater I got to sip wine before watching the show for $8.50 on a Sony 4k projection system with incredible sound. It's an old movie house that's been restored, and the possibly now the best place to see a film in Long Beach, CA.
The film is from the French graphic novels Le Transperceneige. Bong allegedly read them at the counter in a store in Seoul while doing research for The Host. The journey for the film was as long and perilous as the train with its destination yet to be determined. If movie goers get a chance to see it, it could be proclaimed one of the best sci-fi films of the decade.
The film is another vision of how society is heading quickly down a dangerous path that leads to a bleak future that doesn't end until there is almost complete annihilation and rebuilding from near scratch. Go Ah-sung's Yona's first steps in snow rival anything Sandra Bullock felt or expressed in Gravity once she reached terra-firma. It's a first breath from a child, the first steps of a toddler, an infant piece of humanity starting all over again.
Whether we heed the warnings these stories and filmmakers are telling is yet to be seen. But one thing is for certain for any fans of sci-fi or those that like films that deal with real people and present unvarnished social commentaries, Snowpiercer is not to be missed.
Follow Charles Karel Bouley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/therealkarel