Friday, July 4, 2014

Snowpiercer: The Can't Miss Film of the Year

Snowpiercer - International Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind
Good day.

On this day, July 1st 2014…
at this hour, 0600…
we are at the very first airport in the world…
topic of so much controversy over the past 7 years…
has continued development.
Protests from environmental
groups and a number of developing countries continue.
It had been claimed the CW7 is the answer to global warming.
And we are witnesses.
Leaders who argue that
global warming can no longer be ignored.
Today, 79 countries will began dispersing CW7…
in the upper layers of the atmosphere.
And surprisingly bring down the average global temperature…
It is just a day away that…
according to scientists…
the artificial cooling subtance CW7…
will succeed in bringing average
global temperature down to managable level.
As a revolutionary solution to mankind’s warming of the planet.
Soon after dispersing CW7,

the world froze. All life became extinct.

We join the perpetual motion train in its 17th year after the release of CW-7 in the hopes of stopping Global Warming.  The chem-trails have the opposite effect that leaves the world buried under a ton of snow, and the world a winter wasteland.  The perpetual engine, “Snowpiercer,” developed by Wilford Industries and run by Wilfred himself has taken on an aura of mythical proportions.  It is the eve of a new year, and the stench of revolution is in the air.  

Director Joon-ho Bong's "Snowpiercer" is a brilliant story full of metaphor and symbolism that traces its roots back to feudalism, the industrial revolution, with all the benefits and damage that is develops in a closed system.  Chris Evans ("Sunshine," "Captain America," "Fantastic Four") leads a revolution that threatens to destroy the fragile balance between life and death.  John Hurt ("Alien," "1984," "Outlander") is the architect of the revolution, the spiritual leader of the unwashed masses residing in the back of the train.  Kang-ho Song ("The Host" 2006) is the gatekeeper.  He is the one who designed the locking doors between one train cabin and the other in the massively long train.  Ah-sung Ko also of "The Host" plays his drug-addicted daughter.  Jamie Bell ("Defiance," "The Eagle") is the revolutionary second in command and Evan's spirited friend.  Octavia Spencer ("The Help," "Being John Malkovich") is a desperate mother in search of her child taken by the people from the front of the train.  Tilda Swinton ("Constantine," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") is the face of Kafka-esque forbidden front of the train, and Ed Harris ("Phantom," "A History of Violence") is the elusive Wilford.  After Bong Joon-ho read Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette's graphic novel "Le Transperceneige," he decided that he wanted to make it into a feature film.  From the beginning of the story until its very end, "Snowpiercer" is filled with violence, harsh language, and drug addiction and debauchery, giving it an R rating.  Prepare for a two-hour adrenaline charged, emotionally intense ride.

Snowpiercer - John Hurt & Luke Pasqualino | A Constantly Racing Mind

It is 2031 and the world is frozen over.  As the world froze, the lucky few boarded the Snowpiercer, and started a trek around the world that takes a year to complete and there have been 17 of them.  The people of the train find themselves separated by location and into classes.  Those in the upper class reside in the forward sections of the train.  The prisoners are somewhere in the middle and the dregs of their closed society are physically and symbolically in the ass of the train.  Gilliam (Hurt) is the elder statesman of the rear compartments and he along with Curtis (Evans) and Edgar (Bell) plot to rush the forward cabins and fight their way to the Sacred Engine.  Armed soldiers from the front treat the refugees like criminals with head counts and doling out 'power bars' in single files.  From time to time, a short plump woman (Emma Levie) comes to the back section armed with a tape measure to find children of the right height for purposes unknown.  The brutality that the haves inflict on the have-nots is exceptional.  When the guards take Tim (Marcanthonee Reis), Tanya’s (Spencer) son, they savagely beat her.  When Andrew's (Ewen Bremner) child is taken, he fights back.  Minister Mason (Swinton) uses him as an example to keep the masses at bay.  Sticking his arm outside into the frozen air, Mason gives a blustering speech about the divine balance and that everybody has a place on the train.  She places a shoe on his wildly matted hair and exclaims, "Would you put a shoe on your head?"  Continuing to drive her point, she tells the passengers that she is a hat and belongs on the head (the front of the train) and to "know your place.  Accept your place.  Be a shoe."  In the time it takes for Mason to make the ludicrous speech, Andy's arm freezes solid and eventually loses it in a horrific manner. 

Curtis, bearded and grimy, with Edgar lead the uprising as they charge past the first few gates and a fight ensues.  Their first stop is at the prison cabin where they release Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) and his daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko).  Both turn out to be addicted to the industrial waste by-product Kronole.  The substance is both addictive and very flammable.  Namgoong designed the electronic systems that open the doors between compartments.  The small group of revolutionaries finds him in a drawer deep in cryo-sleep.  For the price of four Kronoles per door, he and his daughter will open the doors that lead from one social class to another.  Tagging along are Andy, Tanya, Edgar, and helping the grizzled and maimed Gilliam is the young Grey (Luke Pasqualino - "Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome").  With each door that opens, another world of both wonder and horror unfolds.  There is a point in the film, that after battling their way into a room they find something they haven't seen in 17 years -- a window.  Opening the window exposes the revolutionaries like the man in Plato's cave who walked out of the cave and sees the world for what it really is.  

Snowpiercer - Olivia Spencer Tilda Swinton Ewen Bremmer Chris Evans | A Constantly Racing MindThe battles are bloody and violent, but not done for the sake of gratuitous violence.  Bong composes each shot is to give the viewer an emotional feeling of disgust and anger.  The anger is for the rich people at the front and the social injustice of the back.  After the bloodiest battle that takes place after crossing the Yekaterina (which denotes a New Year), Edgar is martyred and Curtis captures Minister Mason and uses her to transverse to the next few compartments.  In one compartment they find what the protein bars are made of (trust me, ingredient labeling is much overrated), and that you can see the sun and sit under a tree in the conservatory car, and fish swim above your head in the aquarium car.  You can even sit down and have sushi prepared by an actual sushi chef.  Once again, Mason talks about concepts of economics and balance.  In a closed society, order is necessary and all the leaders of the train have done, was for their benefit.  A dark foreshadowing of what is to come.  

All of the actors are exceptional in their roles.  Evans, although forlorn and morose is never depressing.  John Hurt and Tilda Swinton give memorable performances.  Jamie Bell and Olivia Spencer are strong in their supporting performances and we want to see them win.  The bad guys, Vlad Ivanov and Adnan Haskovic as Franco the Elder and Younger, are silent and menacing.  Alison Pill ("Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") is surreal as the Mary Poppins like schoolteacher.

Snowpiercer - Jamie Bell Chris Evans  Kang-ho Song  | A Constantly Racing Mind

The first two acts are caffeine rich and keep the pace moving.  Entering the third act, the tone changes, and the rush is now more emotionally charged.  A story that Curtis tells about the first days of the train are horrifying, reminiscent of the holocaust.  The decadence of the first class passengers mortifies both Curtis and the audience.  As Curtis approaches the front, his followers dwindle down to Namgoong and Yona.  We reach a moment that recalls Orwell's "1984" and Winston's (John Hurt) revelation about Big Brother.  Or one could say that "Snowpiercer" is very Matrixesque in this manner.  The meeting with Wilford (Harris) is disturbing to say the least and in some ways unexpected.  One would expect the ending to be somewhat Marxist in nature, but it isn't.  The secrets that "Snowpiercer" reveals are socially challenging in these days of climate change and ecological fear.  Lately we tend to ask ourselves what is in our food, or should we?  For those of us in First World countries, do we care how the others in the Third World live?  Shouldn't we? Where is my place in the world and can I change it?  "Snowpiercer" asks these questions and more.  Sometimes it is better to tear down current paradigms and symbols and start anew. 

Although "Snowpiercer" is out in Korea on August 1st, 2013.  The Weinstein Company has the distribution rights in the United States and the film opened to about 8 theaters on June 27, 2014, and a wider release for July 3, 2014


Movie Data

Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Year:  2013
Staring: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, Kang-ho Song, Ah-sung Ko
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Producer(s): Tae-sung Jeong, Steven Nam, Chan-wook Park
Writer: Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson
Rating: R

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