Film review: Snowpiercer (2013)


“Snowpiercer” with Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, and Jamie Bell

Directed by Joon-ho Bong, Written by Joon-ho Bong (screenplay), Kelly Masterson (screenplay), Jacques Lob (based on Le Transperceneige by), Benjamin Legrand (based on Le Transperceneige by), Jean-Marc Rochette (based on Le Transperceneige by)

Snowpiercer PosterScience-fiction films and television have made quite the re-emergence into pop culture over the past several years.  After decades of relative mediocrity (with only a sprinkling of gems to break the lull), blockbuster franchises like Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and the superhero movie have once again revitalized the genre whilst paving the way for smaller, independent science fiction films that normally would not have made the cut, otherwise.

“Snowpiercer” is one such film— Heralded as the best sci-fi film since “Children of Men,” this international contender had a lot to live up to.  Besides touching upon similar themes of the human condition, global warming and classism, it manages to create a wonderful balancing act between the three that keeps all of the aforementioned heavy topics spinning in perfect harmony.

“Snowpiercer” takes place in the near future where global warming has run rampant and begun heating the Earth’s service to disastrous results.  Humans (in their infinite wisdom) decide to create a chemical compound to counteract this phenomenon.  Inevitably, the humans create a chemical workaround and release it into the atmosphere, which counteracts the induced global warming.  The solution is short-lived, instead of leveling off at ‘a normal’ global temperate the Earth continues to cool…plummeting it into a new ice age.

Before the great freeze, a select few are herded onto a perpetual, everlasting train that serves as the last bastion of humanity— Shielding them from the cold and providing food and comforts for the coming years, all seems well upon the Snowpiercer.  However, the people who live at the front of the train closest to the engine live a life of wealth and luxury, while the individuals who live in the tail live in near starvation and blatant poverty.

This leads to conflict.

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The film takes place 18-years after the initial boarding of the train and follows a group of the ‘tail section-ers,’ led by Curtis (Chris Evans) and Gilliam (John Hurt), as they try to change society’s rules in order preserve their people.

“Snowpiercer” is a whirlwind of action and intrigue, the plot is less about the cause of the train’s inception but rather the plight of its passengers.  It focuses upon the struggle of the impoverished as well as the decadence of the affluent.  The film is rich with symbolism—  Specifically concerning synergy.  All parts affect the greater whole, especially in reference to the human body.  The head cannot exist without the feet and humans cannot exist solely, without humanity.  Numerous facets of the human condition and the aforementioned extended analogy permeate “Snowpiercer,” resulting in a complex film that keeps audiences thinking long after the credits roll.  Coupled with excellent acting “Snowpiercer” stacks up to be one of the best sci-fi films of the decade.

00Chris Evans leads this star studded cast as the young leader (Curtis), hellbent on leading his people to a better future, John Hurt plays the aged leader (Gilliam) who is effectively passing the baton to Curtis, Jamie Bell plays Curtis’ lieutenant, Edgar, and the villains are rounded out by Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris.  Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ho round-out the cast as unlikely allies to the film’s protagonist.  All of the acting is in finest form, however, Kang-ho Song’s acting stands out in particular because of his overall screen presence and difficult scenes.  Many of his lines are delivered in Korean, however this does not diminish any of the emotion or conveyance to the audience.

As an aside, “Snowpiercer” is a South Korean directed, written, and funded film and was expected to see a wide release United States via The Weinstein Company.  However, company head, Harvey Weinstein refused to distribute the film unless 20-minutes of the film were cut and introductory and closing monologues were added.  Director Bong Joon-ho politely declined, and the film only saw a limited release in art house theaters on June 27, 2014.  Due to the high amount of critical acclaim and buzz that “Snowpiercer” has received since its limited run, it was announced on July 2 that it would be run as a wide release in the near future.

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This controversy is unfortunate, not because of the fact that it is a South Korean film, but rather the hoops that international films have to jump through to be seen—  US film companies have such a monopoly and controlling stake in the market that quality films (such as “Snowpiercer”) get shoved to the bottom shelf, solely being shown in art house cinemas or digital streaming service.  In the case, it seems as-if the quality of the film out trumped the big film companies, so tip of the hat to critics who urged film-goers to give “Snowpiercer” a watch.

If you get a chance, I urge any science-fiction fan to watch “Snowpiercer.”  If you enjoyed “Children of Men,” you’ll love “Snowpiercer.”  The acting is superb, the plot is captivating and poignant, and to top it all off director Bong Joon-ho throws in enough bits of color, flair, and quirkiness to give the film a unique flavor without taking it to obscurity.

 

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“The Avengers”


“The Avengers” with Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Samuel Jackson

(5.4.2012)

Marvel StudiosThe Avengers is by far the best superhero movie ever created.  It perfectly straddles the line between humor, sentiment, and action.  The humor hits home for all ages and easily elicits laughter from audiences.  There are a couple of really touching moments that act as a wonderful bridge from the superhuman to the human—humbling superheroes to relate to humanity.  There is a particularly poignant scene, about mid-film, that could easily draw tears if in a sad state of mind—so be forewarned.  And, then there are the action sequences; throughout the movie they just continually build until it climaxes excellently.  With so many supernatural characters floating around the CGI was immense, but the bleeding was nonexistent and transitions were seemless.

Acting

The acting in the Avengers is phenomenal!  There have been quite a few Marvel films, so the setup and the introduction of the characters was minimal but cohesive due to the prior films.  Chris Evans as Captain America is near perfect. He is level-headed and innocent, and always fighting for a higher cause.  Evans looks a little beefier than he did in Captain America: First Avenger, and truthfully it makes more sense. Captain America has always been fit and close cut—he is a super soldier after all.  Robert Downey, Jr. is really the only actor that could play Tony Stark/Iron Man at this point.  It’s exact, and Downey brings his own charm to an already charming character.  Plot details are already trickling out about Iron Man 3, so stayed tuned for Iron Man news as it becomes available here on the Examiner.  Chris Hemsworthplays the all-powerful Thor, and follows up his performance from his own film by portraying Thor more humbly than before; which makes sense considering that the purpose behind the first film’s story arc was to ground an arrogantThor.  Mark Ruffalo was the standout of the film and should have always been the Hulk.  I honestly hope that they make more Hulk films with Ruffalo as the lead.  He played Bruce Banner superbly, and the Hulk’s part in the movie was hilarious and it would have been tarnished without him.

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye sits comfortably in the espionage, international assassin role.  Considering that his recent break into the mainstream has begun to typecast him into the spy role.  Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, who I’ve always been ambiguous about, really stepped it up in notch in the Avengers.  Joss Whedon provided a bit more back story to her character and it translated well.  Hawkeyeand Black Widow bounce off of each other well and transform what would normally would be the weaker links of theAvengers into strong, well-rounded characters.  Sam JacksonClark Gregg, and Cobie Smulders round out the S.H.I.E.L.D team nicely.  Although I had an insanely difficult time not looking at Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) as Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother.

All-in-all, the Avengers is the Ocean’s of superhero movies, and lives up to the potential in almost every way possible.

Directing and Cinematography

The directing is excellent, and I wouldn’t be surprised if theAvengers becomes classified as Whedon’s Magnum Opus.  He managed to blend the best-of-the-best from all of the leading up Marvel films into one great movie.  The Avengershas been one of the most hyped and highly publicized movies in recent years and it easily could have bungled, but Whedonpulled out all of the stops and created his best piece of work, yet.  The shots are tight and never stagnate.  Whedon is a hero to fanboys everywhere—and, he already was.

Writing

The plot manages to assemble a team together relatively easily and quickly, and seque into the core plot with ease.  I was hesitant about Loki being the villain, but it built off the plot of Thor and worked as a great introductory story arc worthy for the Avengers to battle.  The dialogue fit the well-established characters to a ‘T,’ and one of the key aspects of the film that set it a step above the rest of the Marvel lineup was the humor.  The whole film was sprinkled with it, and pretty much every scene involving the Hulk was hilarious.  And, as always Marvel left viewers with a couple of ‘after-the-credit’ snippets to entice audiences further.  There are two additional scenes, so you might have to go back for a second viewing, or YouTube clip to get the full experience.

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All summed up, the Avengers is the best superhero movie ever created.  With an opening weekend of over $200 million the fans have already spoken and launched the Avengersinto a stratosphere of its own.  The acting, directing, cinematography, and writing all add together to make an amazing movie.  This is a must-see and easily receives a five-out-of-five star rating from this reviewer.