by Brendan Foley
Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.
The world is a chilling hellscape. The poorest live in filth and squalor, subsiding on the meagerest of sustenance. Chaos reigns and humanity seems to be on its final legs.
But enough about President Trump, let’s talk about Snowpiercer.
The most expensive Korean production ever, director Bong Joon Ho (Memories of Murder, The Host) assembled an all-star cast for his apocalyptic parable about the last remains of humanity engaged in literal class-warfare as they barrel through the frozen wasteland that is Planet Earth.
Adapted (liberally) from a French comic book, Snowpiercer mixes folks like Kang-ho Song (the phenomenal Korean star of The Host, Memories of Murder, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Good The Bad The Weird, etc.), Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, Alison Pill, Jamie Bell, and Ed Harris, and lets them battle it out for control of the train.
Leading the charge is Chris Evans, miles away from the spangly outfit that has defined his recent career. With Captain America: Civil War expected to make all of the money this week, we thought it was worth taking a break from the mega-billion franchise that Mr. Evans headlines, and looking at the bizarre cult oddity that’s unlike almost anything else.
Is Snowpiercer the engine that could, or does the film slip on its own fish guts?
Next Week’s Pick:
May 16 is the anniversary of Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones, so in its honor we’re watching another movie about a clone army — of baby Hitlers! No, really! OK, this is admittedly a weak connection but dammit we’re watching The Boys From Brazil! It’s about Nazis trying to stage a daring comeback in the 70s, and stars Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier, plus James Mason, Michael Gough, Lilli Palmer, Denholm Elliott, and Steve Guttenberg! You can’t not want to see this! Streaming on Netlflix!
Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!
Jenna Zine:I’ve felt anger before. But I have never felt as much rage as when I watched Snowpiercer.
Let me explain. The hype was HUGE. The first showing we tried to attend was sold out. We drove an hour, crossing state lines, to catch the next time slot. It was an expensive and frustrating trek. But we settled into our seats, excited to be blown away.
Instead I felt like I received a huge slap in the face from Harvey Weinstein himself. The film was a bloated, unoriginal allegory of previously tread upon ideas that have been done better in a million different ways. The one thing it had going for it was clever marketing. My theory? Weinstein knew it was crap movie, but couldn’t afford to let a Chris Evans project fail. No one wants Mr. Captain America to stink. So Harvey had his team push it as “art house cool” to cloak what a piece of shit this film is. The emperor has no clothes, but no one wanted to be the first to say, “Hey, this movie fucking sucks.” Chris Evans does look hot with a beard though, and I would let him eat my baby. (@JennaZine1)
Trey Lawson: Snowpiercer is smart, exciting science fiction. All day I’ve been kicking myself for waiting so long to watch it. In its emphasis on social stratification and scarcity of resources, the film evokes post-apocalyptic classics like the Mad Max series; however its confined and often claustrophobic setting distinguishes it from those films even as the world outside the train provides a version of the more expected wasteland imagery. Snowpiercer, like most good sci-fi, uses its futuristic setting to provide social commentary on our more immediate present. It projects to their nihilistic extremes the problems of increased economic inequality and global warming while rarely coming across as pedantic. The whole cast is fantastic, but attention must be paid to Chris Evans, whose quiet intensity, sadness, and at times desperation provide the emotional center of the film. This is a film that deserves your complete attention, and it is not to be missed. (@T_Lawson)
Brendan Agnew: Sometimes it can be easy to forget that “plot” and “story” are not actually the same thing.
Oh, not for *you*, because you’re a smart person who thinks good, but, ya know, for most people. Story is “what happens” and “who” and “why” while “plot” is really just filling in mechanics. Some films laser-focus in on nailing the latter to make a piece of fiction feel like it’s running like a Swiss watch (see: Fincher, David), while others are more concerned with the allegory of the narrative, the character arcs, the theme.
Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho is one of those guys. His Chris Evans-starring class uprising parable is a (and I’m not sorry about this) freight train of making a point by any means necessary, even if the minutiae of “plot logic” suffers. The film throws you into the hellish lowest rung of society and lets you live there for just long enough to feel comfortable that you grasp the situation, then proceeds to ensure that you never come close to that feeling again. All while a narrative that you might think you can guess at plays out with surprising twists and turns, capped (still not sorry) off by a shattering performance by Evans himself.
Calling a film “an experience” treads dangerously close to tired cliche, but with Snowpiercer, it fits. And it’s a wondrously singular one, at that. (@BLCAgnew)
Jaime Burchardt:Joon-ho Bong’s career has been fascinating so far. Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother! The fact that Snowpiercer isn’t more well known is a travesty. I know the inner film circles know about it (I’m not going to say film T — -you know) but it deserves so much more love than it has right now. With an amazing cast, tight script and awe-inspiring visuals, Bong’s adaptation of the French graphic novel (known as Le Transperceneige so you can find a copy) is spellbounding. A must see. (@jaimeburchardt)
Justin: No matter how many dystopian science fiction films and books there are about class warfare and the oppressed rising up, I will continue to watch and enjoy them. The conceit here is a cautionary tale of what our poor stewardship of the earth and how employing attempts to fix something we’ve ignored until it’s “too little, too late” can actually make things worse… much worse. When global warming is neglected to the point where the Earth is literally being roasted by the Sun, science finds a way to bring temperatures back to good levels, until those temperatures plummet all the way to a new Ice Age. This is a perfect set up for the fair few that survive to be our cast of oppressors and oppressed, with the limited commodities being controlled by a wealthy upper class that shits all of the lower class.
When a film like this can present massive destruction and violence, while also instilling hope, I’m hooked. Intense and heavy, the film is full of action while also presenting serious commentary on the state of the whole as it is today. As I watched, I enjoyed the film, but I held off until the end to give a final verdict. The ending was perfect in how is showed the cost of tearing down the oppressive regime but also showed that defeating injustice is achievable with will and sacrifice. (@thepaintedman)
Brendan: I’ve written about my admiration for this film in the past, and time has done nothing to dim that affection. Snowpiercer is a bizarre clash of styles and tones, all woven together with dancer-like precision by Bong Joon Ho. Bong is without a doubt one of the most accomplished filmmakers of any language, and he makes the jump to American spectacle and movie stars without losing a single step. It helps that every actor is dialed into the mania that Bong is concocting, with Chris Evans in particular delivering the performance of his career as a man whose noble goals can’t outweigh the loathing he feels for himself in every moment. Even as a longtime fan of Evans (I’ve been on board since Cellular) it was shocking to see just how raw he could, how emotionally ruined he could convincingly become.
Snowpiercer is some bleak shit, but within that bleakness is room for hope. Bong’s view of revolutionary practices is intensely cynical, but he still seems tuned in to the spirit of revolutionary ideals, and he closes the film with neither triumph nor despair, but simply with the acknowledgment of hope in the darkest of moments. Where we go from there is entirely up to us. (@TheTrueBrendanF)
Austin:When it comes down to it, my favorite thing about Snowpiercer is that it’s willing to be so weird. The abrupt tonal changes are jarring (in a good way), and you’ve got this terrific cast of movie stars, Oscar winners and nominees, and strong character actors (how terrific is Ewen Bremner?), all on board for this really crazy story. Even as a fan of Korean cinema, I was still amazed by the wild bursts of ridiculousness peppering the serious tone. Tilda Swinton as a hopelessly dorky Mouth of Sauron. Alison Pill as a nutty teacher engaging in DPRK brainwashing. Surprise sushi. Even if you can’t appreciate the film as a whole (the dumb machine gun sniping battle defies suspension of disbelief), there’s some wild stuff here that’s incredible to witness. (@VforVashaw)
COBRA Collector:I need to geek out just a bit about the Blu-ray edition of this movie, which has a ton of fan service including one of the most novel commentary tracks on record, a “Critics’ Commentary” featuring a lot of people we love — host Scott Weinberg, James Rocchi, William Goss, Drew Mcweeny, Jen Yamato, and Peter S. Hall. Besides the expected behind the scenes short featurettes, the bonus disc has an animated prologue and an hour-long documentary about the evolution from graphic novel to screen. But maybe the neatest bit of interest to many Cinapse readers and Austinites in particular — remember when our own David Delgado wrote about Snowpiercer’s Rolling Roadshow? There’s some neat coverage of that, in which you can see a couple glimpses of David, plus an interview with Alamo Drafthouse head honcho Tim League. All told, a very cool fan-first release. (COBRAcollector)
That’s Cinapse co-founder David Delgado in the green shirt!
Soon after dispersing Two Cents the world froze. All life became extinct. The precious few who boarded the rattling ark are humanity’s last survivors.
More on Snowpiercer:
SNOWPIERCER and THE WINTER SOLDIER Make An Unlikely Double Feature
Interview with Bong Joon-ho, and the SNOWPIERCER Rolling Roadshow
SNOWPIERCER: An Auteur’s Undiluted Sci-Fi Vision
SNOWPIERCER: Say You Want A Revolution?
Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!