Saturday, July 26, 2014

Boarding the crazy train...


It feels weird to say that, when all was said and done, ‘Snowpiercer’ felt like the ‘Hunger Games’ for adults, without the Reality TV overtones, shot like an extended hallway sequence from ‘Oldboy’ (you know, the one where that guy kills all those people with a hammer) and an odd climax that reminded me of ‘The Matrix’.  What’s even weirder to me is the fact that this strange amalgam actually worked.  It is flawed, yes, and the more I reflect on those flaws the more they feel prominent, but I can’t help but feel like ‘Snowpiercer’ is one of those films we’ll all look back on fondly in years to come; a film that will establish a justified cult following and will become this tentpole for future ‘intelligent’ science fiction releases who want to deliver something unique and inspired to the audience.

With all the hoopla made over the trashy way that Weinstein Co. handled this distribution, I have to say that I’m seriously baffled he didn’t make a bigger deal of this film.  It has everything it needed to be a major blockbuster this year.  It has the reviews, the cast and the premise.  This is so much smarter than the barrage of senseless action flicks targeted at teenagers these days.  This has a political/social bite that makes it feel poignant, even when the plot holes are making the development of those themes feel somewhat incomplete.

But really, an apocalyptic action flick (because, this is pretty action packed, and the action is inspired and impressively shot) with a cast littered with box-office pulls (Evans, Swinton, Spencer, Harris and Bell all have their fan bases, but really…we all know that Captain America himself could have carried this to impressive heights).

But enough about that.



‘Snowpiercer’ tells the story of Earth’s only surviving humans living together on a train that circles the Earth once every year.  The passengers are separated by class, with the wealthy living in luxury at the front of the train and the poor living like animals and in constant fear for their lives in the back.  Their children are taken from them without reason or warning, their food is disgusting and their numbers dwindle when the front of the train gets trigger happy and decides to even the playing field.  Among the needy, Curtis stands up as a beacon of hope.  He’s confident, cautious and strong willed, and he begins to lead his band of brothers to conquer the domineering leaders before them.  With a plan and a riot, Curtis pummels forth towards the front of the train and the mysterious leader, Wilford.

What transpires is a visual feast with layered subtext that works, mostly.

I think a major problem is the fact that, despite all the moments where it feels like the film is TELLING us what it has to say, the final moment feels almost barren.  That conclusion, while certainly breathtaking, feels like a lazy outing that didn’t tie up the loose ends and winds up feeling anti-climactic despite the thunderous climax itself.

It says absolutely nothing, and so despite the film developing (or attempting to develop) so much within the body of the film, we’re left with a rather empty finale.

But the performances, the score, the technical merits (art direction, cinematography, etc.) are all spectacular, with Chris Evans finally proving he’s more than a glorified super hero and Tilda Swinton creating such a bizarrely haunting character (although, this did feel like Effie Trinket’s evil mother).  The film’s best performances came from Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, who embodied not only their characters but the film itself, creating a haunting depiction of desperation and intelligence trapped in a harrowing situation.



Despite a few flaws, ‘Snowpiercer’ is a film that demands to be seen and dissected, discussed and debated; and that, to me, signifies a great movie.

I give the film a B+.  I flirted with an A-, or even an A, but as I rested on the film the flaws (or flaw) felt too much to ignore.  It's a very, VERY well made film, but it needed to leave me with a more fulfilled climax for it to have been an extraordinary film.  Oscar will look far away from this one, but I highly doubt anyone was thinking it had a chance there.

16 comments:

  1. Great review! I can't believe Weinstein didn't try harder for this either, it could've easily been a big summer release. Especially with Chris Evans starring in it.

    There were some flaws, but I looked past a lot of them, but the one that does bother me is Jaime Bell's character's age. That one gets on my nerves.

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    1. Yeah...when Evans said that Bell was 18 (or was it 17?) I think I rolled my eyes. Like, he looks young, but stop it already. Just stop it.

      They should have cast Tye Sheridan ;-)

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  2. You aren't the first reviewer I've seen who has mentioned that the climax didn't measure up to the rest of the movie. Nevertheless I am very interested in this one, and I am even more intrigued after reading your terrific review. Since you described it as a "visual feast" it might actually be worth seeing in the theater.

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    1. It's so worth seeing on the big screen. The film just fills each and every frame beautifully. It's not the best looking film of the year, but it lends itself well to a larger format.

      The climax was a letdown, but it doesn't take away from the remainder of the experience. It only dampens my overall feeling towards the whole.

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  3. I really enjoyed the hell out of this film. It had everything I like about summer blockbusters but it had so much more. I think it's a film that needs to be seen more as I was extremely impressed by what I saw as well as the film's cast including Chris Evans who fucking sold that monologue near the end of the film.

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    1. I'll be honest, Evan's ending monologue made me cry. He was brilliant, and I never thought I'd say that about him...ever.

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  4. Good review. Totally agree about the climax.

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  5. Yeah, the climax doesn't fit as well with the rest of the film as I'd like it to, but I thoroughly enjoyed this and can't wait to revisit it. I'd give it an A despite that quibble.

    Evans killed me with that monologue at the end, but one of my favorite parts of the film was Alison Pill's scene-stealing performance. While it's early, I could see her being in my final Best Supporting Actress lineup.

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    1. I loved Pill. She was hilariously focused. The deadpan expression on her face while she was spraying those bullets was impressive.

      If her and Thurman remain in your top five...would this be the first time you nominate two people in the same category that only had one scene in their films?

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    2. Yeah. Plus, I just love the theatricality of her performance. It worked so well for that role. She's actually my runner-up to Thurman right now, but I could see her becoming this year's Selena Gomez.

      Ooohhhh... I've no idea, but I'm pretty sure that would be a first, which would be kind of awesome!

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    3. WOW! You really do like her. Can't wait to see how the year pans out.

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    4. Well, to be fair, my Supporting Actress lineup has a lot of wiggle room at the moment:

      1. Uma Thurman, Nymphomaniac
      2. Alison Pill, Snowpiercer
      3. Melanie Lynskey, Happy Christmas
      4. Liv LeMoyne, We Are the Best!
      5. Sarah Gadon, Enemy

      I love the unpredictability! I can't wait to see how my personal predictions turn out.

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    5. Yeah, it's early yet. There is a lot left to see!

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  6. While I agree on the final climax, I thought for the most part, the film was amazing. I loved the production design for each of the train cars, the screenplay that uses the film as both a demonstration and allegory for the clashing class system and balancing of the population. Plus, while I loved the ensemble, the film belongs to Tilda Swinton. She was so campy and colorful, yet I loved that. I still constantly quote a lot of her lines, especially her "shoe" monologue in her opening scene.

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    1. I'm pretty much with you there...but that ending.

      Damn.

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