Monday, March 2, 2015

Review: "Snowpiercer" is Unique and Thrilling

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 (of 2015) by Leroy Douresseaux

Snowpiercer (2013)
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence, language and drug content
DIRECTOR:  Bong Joon Ho
WRITERS: Joon-ho Bong and Kelly Masterson; from a screen story by Joon-ho Bong (based on the comic book,  Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette)
PRODUCERS:  Tae-sung Jeong, Wonjo Jeong, Miky Lee, Tae-hun Lee, Steven Nam, and Chan-wook Park
EDITORS:  Steve M. Choe and Changju Kim
COMPOSER:  Marco Beltrami


Starring:  Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho, Tilda Swinton, Ko Asung, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ewen Bremner, Vlad Ivanov, Marcanthonee Jon Reis, Emma Levie, Allison Pill, and Ed Harris

Snowpiercer is a 2013 South Korean science fiction film from director Bong Joon Ho.  The film is based on a series of French graphic novels that began in 1982 with the first book, Le Transperceneige (Snowpiercer).  Snowpiercer the movie takes place on a class strife-ridden train that is the only home of the last humans alive on Earth.

At the beginning of Snowpiercer, we learn that humans made an attempt to halt global warming by spraying the chemical, CW-7, into the atmosphere.  That backfired, and the result was the start of an ice age so severe that almost all life on Earth was destroyed.

The only human survivors are now living in Snowpiercer, a massive train that travels on a globe-spanning train track.  However, a rigid class system pervades Snowpiercer with the elites living in the front of the train; people useful to the elites occupying in the middle; and the utterly poor and destitute inhabiting the tail of the train.

In the year 2031, the tail inhabitants prepare to launch another rebellion against the elites.  Although past rebellions have failed, this new rebellion may have finally found the one man who can lead the poor people to the very front door of Wilford (Ed Harris), the creator of the train.  This new leader's name is Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), and he has a plan to get past Snowpiercer's security system and its armed guards.  In order for his plan to work, however, Curt must rely on Nam Kung Min Soo (Song Kang Ho), a drug addict who doesn't speak a word of English, and also on his kooky daughter, Yona (Ko Asung).

Snowpiercer is one of the best films of 2014.  Everything about it is high-quality, especially its beautiful cinematography and its production design, which is both imaginative and inventive.  Considering the narrow spaces with which production designer Ondrej Nekvasil had to work, he managed to recreate a diverse cross section of modern humanity's interior living environments in a way that is almost too impressive for words.

The ensemble cast is also excellent, with Tilda Swinton delivering a splendid performance as Mason.  This is a character that is so odd that anyone other than a highly-talented and skilled actor would fumble.  My favorite performance, however, is that of Chris Evans as Curtis Everett.

Evans began his rise as a movie star by showing his ability to be funny or to deliver light comic flourishes whenever a film in which he appeared desperately needed some genuine humor.  He was often the saving grace of 20th Century Fox's 2005-2007 Fantastic Four film franchise.  Evans then showed that he could be an action movie star in Marvel Studio's Captain America films by bring dramatic heft and gravitas to both Captain America films and to Marvel's The Avengers, in which he also appeared as Captain America.

In Snowpiercer, Evans puts a lock on leading man status.  He looks like a leader, and, in this performance, he carries and embodies this film's social commentary in Curtis Everett's physicality and his emotions, and especially in his spirit.  Evans leaves no doubt that he is not only the real deal as a movie star, but also as an actor.

Co-writer and director Bong Joon Ho (or Joon-ho Bong) gives Snowpiercer visual scope, creating a big picture in a setting that is both intimate and claustrophobic.  Bong shows that science fiction can be more than just imaginative and speculative about the future.  It can and should speak to the modern condition; the genre wants to be more than just escapism.  I still wish that Snowpiercer had spent more time with more of its amazing cast of characters.  That does not keep me from declaring that this is a unique science fiction film because its themes and ideas are both non-fiction and important.

8 of 10

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2015 Black Reel Awards:  1 nomination: “Outstanding Supporting Actress, Motion Picture” (Octavia Spencer)

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