Stakes On A Train

If Karl Marx and Al Gore had a baby it would be Snowpiercer

by Jorge Ignacio Castillo


Sept. 4-7
RPL Film Theatre
3.5 out of 5

In the last year, three major Korean filmmakers attempted to break into Western cinema: Chan-wook Park (of Oldboy fame) with Stoker, Jee-woon Kim (I Saw the Devil) with The Last Stand, and Joon-ho Bong (The Host) with Snowpiercer.

None of them succeeded, but Bong came the closest.

Snowpiercer has a premise with tremendous potential and, for the most part, it delivers: in a last effort to defeat global warming, mankind freezes the planet instead. Whoops. The few survivors board a high-speed train that under no circumstance can stop. Modern class struggle endures as well: The poor travel jam-packed at the back of the train, while the rich live comfortably in the front.

However, a revolution is brewing and unlike previous uprisings, this one may actually succeed thanks to Curtis (Chris Evans), the reluctant yet competent leader, and the very angry 99 per cent. To capture the engine room, they must take on the police forces (there to protect the wealthy) and the cunning liaison (Tilda Swinton, a hoot and a half).

The developments that ensue go a little farther than merely portraying class struggle. In Joon-ho Bong’s vision, revolutions are easy to manipulate and can be used for social engineering, and not the good kind. The conclusion is in the same vein as sci-fi classics like Soylent Green and Planet of the Apes, devastating yet hopeful: truth will set you free.

As grim as Snowpiercer can get, there is room for visually arresting scenarios and whimsical curveballs: A nifty battle sequence leads to an even cooler one with the flick of a switch. Some of the CGI is in the crude side, but nitpicking aside, this flick provides some of the meatiest thrills of the summer. See it.