Monday, June 2, 2014

Movie review: 'Snowpiercer' is a Train Ride to (Frozen) Hell.

Snowpierecer (2013, directed by Bong Joon-Ho. USA/Korea, Color, 126 minutes. In English and Korean with subtitles) Think of the most horrendous train ride you've ever been on and times that by a hundred. This pretty much describes the post-apocalyptic movie "Snowpiercer". Much like the non-stop track the titular train barrels along on, you wish there was at least one stop you could get the hell off at.

It's 2031, and all of the world's inhabitants are stuck on a train cruising around the globe after an experiment to combat global warming in 2014 puts terra firma in another ice age. Curtis (Chris Evans) and a few of his conspirators in the squabble cars at the end of the train plan to overtake the engine and gain control of it, but in order to do that they need to pound the allegorical messages of the film into the viewers heads.

Steeped in so much of its own political seriousness about global warming and military rule, "Snowpiercer" comes off like a serious film that wants to discuss these issues but is really nothing more than dribble that would make up a Sylvester Stallone film. And no, using drab imagery as to compare the train to those that transported Jews to the concentration camps doesn't give you a pass for seeming serious. What a cheap trick that was.

The characters are one dimensional and their actions have about as much logic to them as anyone in a "Transformers" movie. They carry on their way in a typical fashion- underdog takes on the big man, battles a bunch of morons on the way and has a showdown with the enemy in the end. And of course there's the cliches of the one guy who won't die no matter how much you punch/stab/shoot him, and the inevitable deaths that are averted because a random character intervenes at the last second. There's nothing new here. I even caught glimpses of "300" when the rebels and the guards are fighting in a train car.

And what would Curtis have done when he reached the engine anyway? Does he know how to operate the train? Would he shut it off and kill the self-sufficient train of life and everyone on it? Would he make everyone run out in the freezing cold and die? Would he make sure his fellow tail-end inhabitants were fed something other than gelatin protein blocks? WHAT SENSE DID IT MAKE TO TAKE THE TRAIN!? Curtis' ambitions are much bigger than he knows what to do with.

Futuristic allegorical movies are fine - just look at 2006's "Children of Men" - but not when you're using it as lipstick on a pig of an action movie. Wrapping "Snowpiercer" up in an art house bow doesn't excuse this movie for what it really is: a rudimentary action movie that would appeal equally to those who made mainstream stupidity like "Transformers" or "The Dark Knight" box office smashes. Distributor Harvey Weinstein wanted to take 20 minutes out because he deemed the film too smart for American audiences. No, Harvey, I think even they can understand what's going on here. It's not rocket science.

Shout out to Tilda Swinton's deliciously campy role as Mason. Only good part of the movie.

Rating: F

"Snowpiercer" hits theaters June 24.

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