The following is a review originally published in Word and Film.
Snowpiercer is a fantastic dumb movie for smart people. Or maybe it’s just a fantastic smart movie for everybody. Either way, I’m in love; this is the first big-scale picture of the summer that deserves to put tons of bodies in movie theater seats. The irony is that it belongs to the two cinema genres already glutting multiplexes to the chagrin of many. It’s both an action pic and a comic book adaptation – albeit a Korean adaptation of Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette’s 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, which is basically a brainy cocktail of Speed and Brazil. On the rocks.
For seventeen years, Earth has been adrift in an Ice Age caused by a misguided effort to head off climate change. The only humans still alive are sealed off from the elements on the Snowpiercer, a perpetual motion-powered train that hurtles around the earth every 365 days. At the front dwell those who could afford to buy their seats; at the rear, the unwashed ragamuffins who secured their (most piteous of) positions through a lottery. The “haves” luxuriate in spas, nightclubs, and lush greenhouses, swilling sushi and champagne while their children are brainwashed by a Martha Stewart-on-crack schoolmarm (Alison Pill as you’ve never seen her). The “have-nots” languish in unlit shantytowns in which they are subject to terrible brutality (amputation being the standard punishment for insubordination), maw black gelatinous blocks fashioned from a nebulous animal protein, and are presided over by Mason (Tilda Swinton, sporting a dental prosthesis that’s practically four-dimensional), a Thatcher-esque bureaucrat who brandishes a polyester glove on an iron fist. Continue Reading →