Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Snowpiercer: Train To Nowhere

Apparently, Al Gore was right; Global warming will be the end of us all. In Snowpiercer (2013), the governments of the world try to stop the escalating climate issues caused by global warming by releasing a chemical into the atmosphere. The problem? This causes the planet to completely freeze over, and much of the world’s population dies. Years later, the survivors are all riding a hi-tech train called the Snowpiercer, which continually circles the globe. The train is divided into sections mirroring our current society: the wealthy have the best living conditions toward the front, while the poor live in the rear section, and have crowded conditions & little food. The Wilford Corporation (led by Ed Harris) controls the Snowpiercer's world. A group of rebels from the rear section want to take over the train and disperse the goods more evenly, so everyone can be treated fairly. But they’ll have to battle their way thru the length of the train (and Wilford’s forces) to get to the head car & seize control. There’s also a possibility this “new ice age” is ending and the Earth may be habitable again. Is Wilford hiding the truth? And why do children keep disappearing from the poorer sections of the train?

This movie garnered a lot of buzz upon its release in the US in 2014. It was touted as being a different type of sci-fi movie, with a new & original look. It is stylishly filmed, and the design of the train & some of the visual effects are interesting. But the plot is a hodgepodge of other dystopian sci-fi films & novels such as Soylent Green, The Hunger Games, 1984 & Brave New World. While the concepts are interesting, the story feels a bit tacked together, and some of the plot points are left unexplained or glossed over. The film does try to raise some interesting philosophical issues, but they are never fully explored. I’m all for suspending disbelief in a movie, and going along for the ride (pun intended) but this film just leaves too many questions open: How is this train serviced? How did the class system on the train come to be? Why is the inhumane method of operation that’s chosen by Wilford the only way to run the engine?

The movie features a talented cast including Harris, Chris Evans, John Hurt & a scenery chewing Tilda Swinton, who makes the most of her role as a Wilford spokesperson/henchwoman. But some of the characters are oddly portrayed for no apparent reason, reminding me a bit of the supporting cast in 1997's The Fifth Element. The action sequences are poorly staged, and at just over two hours, the film feels a bit overlong. The story’s resolution and the final sequences are just plain illogical. The film was helmed by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, and is based on a French graphic novel entitled Le Transperceneige. I had high hopes for this one; sadly, it left me feeling disappointed. There are some intriguing ideas in the film, but the pieces just don’t gel together well enough to make this the great sci-fi tale it could have been. Might be worth a look for genre fans, but not recommended. Snowpiercer is available on Blu-ray, DVD & available for streaming on Netflix. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

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