Monday, December 8, 2014

Flim Review: Snowpiercer

During my time in my youth as a clerk at the Canyon Ranch Resort in Lennox, MA I had the unfortunate pleasure of bumping into one of the Weinstein brothers of film and TV fame.  Whether it was Harvey or Bob matters not.  They (he) was a fat dink then and he's a fat dink now.  Only now they own The Weinstein Company vs. Miramax which they founded and sold to Disney.  In either case the Weinstein slobs have a habit of requiring major edits to Asian films they acquire the rights to or drastically curtailing their distribution in the West.

So it was with Snowpiercer.  Though an English language film staring Chris Evans, it was directed by a Korean and was based off of an early 80's French comic.  For whatever reason the Weinstein's chose to play games with this most excellent movie.  They demanded major edits of the film with additional voiceovers at the beginning and end of the film likely in an attempt to make it more suitable for American tastes...which is odd given the number of decidedly independent and quirky films the Weinsteins have backed in their career (Clerks, Pulp Fiction, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Kids, Heavenly Creatures, etc.)  Fortunately the Korean director, Bong Joon-ho, refused their demands and kept the film as is--which is likely why the Weinsteins then refused to give the film the wide release it deserved, limiting it to some 150 very small, obscure theaters in its initial release and then sending it on to the Home audience via NetFlix and DVDs.

Thankfully a few people in the sci-fi world saw the film and have been singing its praises since.

It took me about the first half hour of the film to warm (pun intended) up to Snowpiercer.  It begins slowly and the special effects are initially not the best that money can buy.  That said, the premise of the film is what drew me in.  Not to say that its realistic, but it sure is interesting.  Virtually the entire population of the Earth has died out due to man's attempt to reverse global warming that has lead to a ice encased planet that is now too cold to live on.  All that remains is a few hundred or thousand individuals aboard an ever moving train that circles the earth once every 365 days.

Aboard this train the population is stratified by class.  The wealthy and powerful live in the front cars of the train and exist in comfort and ease.  The poor and unwanted live at the rear, existing on jello "protein bars" made from well, its not people but its supposed to be just as revolting.  The plot then revolves around an uprising lead by Chris Evans' character "Curtis" who along with his fellow rear train inhabitants have tired of being told what and how to exist.  Watching the progression from the rear to the front of the train as conditions improve and both the rear-trainers and the audience learn just what comforts those in the front have been partaking of is great theater.  The action scenes are excellent and you don't get the "claustrophobic" feeling you might get expect from a film that takes place in such a tight environment (just the opposite in fact, you end up forgetting the action takes place entirely within a train at times).  The story also has a few nice twists to keep it from being a straightforward thriller and makes you reassess the motivations of a number of characters.

There are traces here of your classic futuristic dystopian films and books--1984, Brazil, etc. but the material is definitely fresh and does not feel derivative.   Tilda Swinton is nearly unrecognizable and will get a good deal of Best Supporting Actress buzz for her role as "Mason" the train's second in command and will be the most memorable part of the film for most, I spent much time wishing that she had MORE screentime despite the "evil" of her character.

No self respective fan of Sci-Fi should miss this film.  Its worth nearly every moment.

1 comment:

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