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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Movie Review - Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer (2014)
Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho, Tilda Swinon, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ko Asung, and Ed Harris
Directed by Bong Joon Ho
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

I'm going to put aside any political ramifications of Snowpiercer -- a film which some may seem to be a call for socialism -- and simply say that I found director Bong Joon Ho's film to be quite an amusing take on the uprising of an oppressed lower class as they fight for fair treatment.  Part action, part sci-fi, part drama, and part comedy, Snowpiercer is one of the best films of 2014 with some surprisingly strong performances from an eclectic cast.

In 2014, global warming has wreaked havoc on the earth and scientists decide to push chemicals into the atmosphere to cool things down.  This experiment, however, backfires and ends up freezing the earth making the planet seemingly uninhabitable.  A mysterious man named Wilford (Ed Harris) has built a train that contains various ecosystems and familiar earthly ways of life (beauty shops, sushi restaurants, nightclubs).  This "rattling ark" now contains the planet's last survivors, but the passengers are broken up into different economic strata based on the price of their ticket with the poorest relegated to the dungy, dark caboose of the train.

Jump ahead to 2031 and the inhabitants of the back of the train are fed up with their treatment.  With the help and wisdom of the elderly Gilliam (William Hurt), Curtis (Chris Evans) decides to lead a revolution against their oppressors by staging a coup that will allow them to inch their way up to the front of the train and take control of the engine.

Snowpiercer works because it's an action film -- filled with exciting fight scenes and tense moments -- combined with an actual story that's worth your time.  Director Bong Joon Ho is adept at crafting fight sequences (one that takes place in the dark is particularly intense), while at the same time allowing intimate character-driven moments to shine as well.  The entire cast is strong with particular kudos needing to be lauded upon Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton.

Evans, heretofore known only to me for his superhero roles, takes what we know him for -- those action-oriented roles -- and embraces that, while at the same time adding layers to a character that easily could've simply been a typical "savior" role.  Evans' Curtis is a flawed character with much depth, and in a memorably touching scene in which Curtis recalls a particularly horrific and harrowing time in the back of the train, we see Evans truly showcasing his emotional range and talent as an actor.

Swinton, on the other hand, gets an opportunity to showcase her comedic chops in the amusingly arrogant role of Mason -- Wilford's right-hand woman who is the political mouthpiece of the train's upper crust.  Hamming it up, while at the same embodying a somewhat horrific authoritative side, Swinton continues to prove that she's an actress who constantly makes interesting choices in the characters she portrays.

With some stellar production design to boot to add visual appeal, Snowpiercer is absolutely one of the more interesting and unique films of 2014.  Considering I enjoyed it this much and I'm not even delving into the political ramifications the film espouses, Snowpiercer is much richer than its surface appears.

The RyMickey Rating:  A-

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