Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dystopian Visions #4: Snowpiercer ***1/2 (2013)

Bong Joon Ho's Snowpiercer is a tour de force set on a futuristic train where the last vestiges of humanity live in grim harmony.  With an international cast and a cinematic style that hits you with pinpoint precision, Snowpiercer stands up to repeated viewings. 

After a failed experiment to stop climate change turned the earth into a snow bowl, similar to Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, the survivors must live together in a grim Noah's Ark, a train that speeds endlessly around the earth. The story begins in the "tail section" where most of the inhabitants on the train live in squalor, forced to live on disgusting protein packs. Curtis (Chris Evans) is their de facto leader who believes their only chance of survival is to lead a revolt (classic situation of class inequality as Karl Marx outlined in The Communist Manifesto). 

An opportunity arrives and a violent uprising begins. His fellow tail section people meet up with Minsoo and Yono, a father and daughter who know all of the train's secrets. They are confronted by their nemesis Mason (Tilda Swinton) the classic spokesperson for authoritarian types (see a daily White House Press Briefing). Bong Joon Ho stages visually stunning battle scenes shot with grace. As the tail section proletariat move further up the train and suffer high casualties they become aware of the rigid class system. The Middle Class lives in relative comfort, doing the bidding of the upper classes who live hedonistic lifestyles in a never ending rave party. 

Few films play with our sense of space better, locking us in the claustrophobic world of Snowpiercer. In addition, there's a humanistic beat running through the story as well as a cautious skepticism about the course of revolutions.

A stunning bizarro version of our own world, Snowpiercer never disappoints and leaves the viewer with much to ponder in a visceral two hour movie. 

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