October 26th, 2014

SNOWPIERCER (2014) ***

In the near future, the world is covered in ice and snow from global warming. The remnants of the Earth’s population live aboard a train that constantly circles the globe. The lower class passengers (the “stowaways”) are kept in the caboose while all the rich people live in the first class section. Chris Evans finally has his fill of being treated like shit and stages a revolt along with his fellow dingy stowaways. Evans works his way through the increasingly bizarre compartments in order to get to the engine room where he can finally take control of the train.

Some of the various train compartments are a trip. One contains maniacs dressed like S & M executioners brandishing axes. Another one contains a kindergarten class singing demented nursery rhymes. There’s also a spa that looks like it came out of The Empire Strikes Back.

I admired the unpredictable lunacy of the concept, and the fact that it’s played more or less with a straight face. There’s also a whimsical feeling to the grittiness that gives the flick an odd feel. Imagine if Wes Anderson directed The Raid, or if Terry Gilliam directed Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, and that should give you an idea of what to expect.

The class struggle metaphor is a little preachy (the poor people are in the back of the train, the rich people are in the front), and the flick gets pretty heavy-handed at times (especially in the early going). The ending is a bit longwinded too. However, whenever Evans is kicking ass in the middle section of the train, Snowpiercer is a lot of fun. (To continue on with the class struggle metaphors: Since I enjoyed the middle portion of the movie, I guess that makes me a middle class kind of guy.)

The performances are good across the board. Chris Evans puts in a solid turn as the stoic hero. Tilda Swinton gives another one of her patented nutty performances that she’s been giving out lately. John Hurt also has some nice moments as the stowaways’ elder statesman.

Although it’s extremely uneven, there’s still enough clever and weird moments here to make Snowpiercer highly recommended. It’s also a couple of reels longer than it really needed to be. If you can get past the sluggish set-up and the overlong finish, you’ll find there’s plenty of rewarding moments along the way.