Thursday, July 17, 2014

Snowpiecer (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Dig Deep For
Sci-Fi Message

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

What if you crossed “The Polar Express” with “The Hunger Games”? Maybe threw in the social commentary of Orwell’s “1984.” You’d get the new apocalyptic action thriller called “Snowpiercer.”

If you’re a sci-fi fan with an ability for suspension of disbelief, you’re going to love it. If you’re a grounded action fan who demands a logical plot, you’ll grumble at the surreal-like fantasy with plot holes large enough to drive a train through.

“Snowpiercer” -- currently getting up steam at the Tropic Cinema -- is about a train that’s carrying the last remnants of humanity after a failed global warming cure brings on an ice age that wipes out life as we know it.

Based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” by Jean-Marc Rochette, it’s a bleak film as brought to the screen by Korean director Joon-ho Bong.

A Noah’s ark supertrain transverses the globe, powered by a perpetual-motion engine, carrying the survivors in this snowbound doomsday story. After running for 17 straight years, a strict social class system has been imposed on the train’s passengers, the poor in the rear cars, the train’s inventor Wilford (Ed Harris) and his upper-class cronies upfront next to the engine. (Read: A cinematic microcosm of society.) Turns out, the people in the front of the train can’t survive without the children of the back, and those in the back can’t survive without the food from the front, a “perfect” symbiotic relationship.

The story has a young man named Curtis (Chris Evans) who is trying to get past all the security guards in order to reach the front section of the train where Wilford lives in luxury. Curtis’s quest is part of a proposed revolution, an uprising of the have-nots. Lots of social commentary here, designed to keep moviegoers talking about “Snowpiercer” for years to come -- maybe even until 2031, the year in which the movie is set.

This is Bong’s first English-language film, so forgive the script faux pas. But he’s good a delivering action scenes, such as the bloody episode with ax-wielding guards going at it the attacking rebels.

The train is populated by many well-known actors -- from John Hurt to Octavia Spencer -- as well as some of Bong’s favorite compatriots -- Kang-ho Song to Ah-sung Ko. Alison Pill is a scene-stealer. And you won’t recognize Tilda Swinton in a role originally written for John C. Reilly.

Enumerating all the plot holes would require too many spoilers. So suspend your disbelief and take a ride on the Snowpiercer if you like end-of-the-world thrillers.

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