Snowpiercer

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 2014, an attempt to counteract global warming through climate engineering catastrophically backfires, resulting in an ice age so severe that nearly all life on Earth is killed. The only survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train powered by a perpetual-motion engine that travels on a globe-spanning track. A class system is installed, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and the poor inhabiting the tail.

In 2031, the tail inhabitants prepare for the latest in a series of rebellions. Guards arrive periodically to deliver protein blocks for food, and take some of the children. During the guards’ next visit, Curtis Everett (Evans) leads the tail inhabitants in revolt, forcing their way through several train cars to the prison section. There, they release prisoner Namgoong Minsu (Song), the man who built the security system that controls the doors dividing each car, and his clairvoyant daughter Yona. They offer him uncut Kronole, a drug that both he and his daughter are addicted to, as payment for unlocking each of the remaining doors.

One of the cars is filled with armed men. Under the orders of Minister Mason (Swinton), the men battle Curtis’s forces. Curtis’s side prevails, and he captures Mason, but he is forced to sacrifice his second-in-command, Edgar, to do so. Mason agrees to lead the group through the high-class cars in exchange for her life. In the school car, the teacher points out seven frozen rebels through the window. She and a henchman then draw machine guns, slaughtering many of Curtis’s followers, and executing his mentor Gilliam. Curtis then kills Mason.

Curtis, his few remaining followers, and Namgoong and Yona continue through the train, discovering the extravagance in which the elites have been living while the poor languished in squalor. One of Mason’s henchmen, Franco the Elder, kills the rest of Curtis’s followers, before the henchman is himself seemingly killed. Curtis resolves to complete his mission, accompanied by Namgoong and Yona. The trio moves through the remaining cars where the elite indulge in food, partying and Kronole; Namgoong steals much of this Kronole from the inebriated revelers. As they arrive at the Engine door, Namgoong suggests they use the collected Kronole, made from explosive chemical waste, to blow open the side of the train, and escape into the outside. Namgoong explains that every year, the train has passed a crashed plane buried in snow, which has become less buried with each passing year, suggesting that Earth is warming, and that survival outside is now possible.

Curtis explains why he must confront Wilford, creator of the train and its hierarchy. When the tail dwellers first boarded the train, they were deprived of food, water, and supplies, and in crowded conditions, forcing them to turn to cannibalism. Before the introduction of the protein blocks, Curtis had kidnapped an infant Edgar to eat him, and killed his mother, before Gilliam cut his own arm off and offered it in Edgar’s place. Namgoong resolves to use the explosive, but the engine door opens, and Namgoong is shot and wounded by Wilford’s assistant Claude, who forces Curtis inside. Curtis confronts Wilford, who explains that the revolution was orchestrated between himself and Gilliam as a means of population control, necessary to maintaining balance aboard the train for supplies, but Curtis was too successful and Wilford’s own losses too great, so he executed Gilliam as punishment. The aging Wilford says that he wants Curtis to replace him as the train’s overseer, while in the tail, Wilford’s henchmen execute 74% of the inhabitants.

Meanwhile, Yona and the recovered Namgoong fight off the irate partiers and Franco (who survived the previous fight). Yona knocks Claude unconscious, gets inside the engine room and pulls up the floor to reveal that Wilford is using the tail children as slave labor, to replace the train’s failing components. Outraged, Curtis sacrifices his arm to block the train gears, freeing one of the children, Timmy. Yona recovers the explosive from Claude and ignites it, before retreating into the engine with Namgoong. The damaged engine door fails to close, and Namgoong and Curtis sacrifice themselves to shield Yona and Timmy from the resulting explosive fire. The explosion sound wave causes an avalanche in the surrounding mountains that strikes and derails the train, destroying many of the cars. In the aftermath, Yona and Timmy step outside into the snow. In the distance Yona spots a polar bear.

REVIEW:

Sometimes an actor, who has proven himself in big budget projects, needs to take a step back and show the world that he can really act. When one initially looks at Snowpiercer, Chris Evans’ participation is sure to stir up those thoughts, but is that really what he is doing? If so, is this the film for him to that in?

What is this about?

The Earth’s remaining inhabitants are confined to a single train circling the globe as revolution brews among the class-divided cars.

What did I like?

Be prepared. This day and age, it seems as if everyone has embraced global warming, except the politicians. Yes, I am aware of the irony of talking global warming as a giant cold front is about to sit right down on most of the country, but consider this…it is currently 72 degrees in February!!!! Anyway, this film makes a statement about global warming and how ill prepared we more than likely are in the event of total global collapse. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if someone hastily approved an untested “solution” that would do nothing but cause the world to freeze.

Octavia. It wasn’t that long ago that I was watching Octavia Spencer on some Comedy Central show about a bunch of inmates in a halfway house. Now, she is a respected actress who is getting more and more roles. This is a rare role for her where she isn’t the funny one, as she is being a totally serious character. A mother who wants to get her child back at all costs. Yes, theoretically, she was a serious character in The Help, but there were jokes and such written in to sort o make her a bit more “colorful”, as it were. Spencer’s character in this picture comes out of nowhere and is integral to the plan. I appreciated that she was able to branch out of her comfort zone with this role and look forward to more of her evolution.

Action. This is a film that needs action or else it might as well just be a train mystery film. Watching the action scenes, a thought occurred to me. When an American or American-ized director shoots action scenes, they tend to end in explosions, but with Asian directors the fight scenes are beautiful works of art. Now, I can go for either, but it is nice to get a change in the norm once in a while. It doesn’t hurt to have Chris Evans, who was obviously still in Captain America shape (more on that shortly) to help execute such amazing stuff.

What didn’t I like?

Matrix revisited. Coming around to the end of this film, we finally meet the elusive Wilford, played by Ed Harris. Nothing really special about the guy. He has no special powers, he’s not old and frail, nor is he on his death bed. He’s just a normal guy that apparently likes to hear himself talk. I’m not sure what this character is like in the book, but to me, he came off very similar to the Architect in The Matrix: Reloaded. The way the scene was set up with just the two of them in the room for the fate of mankind, really put that in my head. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but I feel as if this film wasn’t trying to emulate anything else, but accidentally did so.

Class. Last night, I was watching Man of Steel and thought what would happen if we all had to evacuate the planet? Assuming we had somewhere to go, who would get to go? Judging by the way we fight over everything, it would be best to assume that the rich and powerful would go first and everyone else would follow. Yes, even though we don’t go by the class system, we sort of do. In this film, even though the world has become a dystopian, frozen tundra version of itself where the population now resides on a train that constantly circles the globe, it is made clear that class is important. Damn shame that when everyone’s life is at stake, some think they are more important than others.

Too buff. So, Chris Evans, as we all now is Captain America. Upon getting the role, he seriously buffed up and is a far cry from his days as Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four franchise. Thing about that, though, is maybe he should have dropped some muscle for this film. I only say that because he is playing a character that is living on some sort of protein bars and little water. No way in the world he can be that huge living off that! Genetics and all that jazz do play a part, but in general this cannot be. Not to take anything away from Evans, mind you. He does a great job, but I couldn’t get my mind around how out of place he seemed.

I first hear of Snowpiercer shortly after it was initially released in the handful of theaters that were allowed to show it because of some controversy about distribution right. All the reviews were more than complementary and has me really stoked to see this. For the most part, they weren’t misleading. As with most action flicks, there is a slow buildup, but the payoff is more than satisfactory. On a totally different note, this is one of the most feminine roles I’ve seen Tilda Swinton look in quite some time! So, do I recommend this? Yes, very highly! A film that not only will make you think, but will also entertain you. Man, they just don’t make flicks like this anymore!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

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