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REVIEW: Snowpiercer

Roslyn Hull

Set in a future where a failed climate-change experiment kills all life on the planet except for a lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system emerges. ~ IMDB

My husband (a pragmatic, practical man) was not a fan – there were plot holes so big you could see the other end of the train through them that, erm, bothered him.

More than plot holes, it was the extremity of decisions made by characters and the actual set up of the existence on the train that lost me a bit.

However, I have to give it points for trying.

As Marvel takes over the movie universe, it is refreshing to hear other voices…see other futures—bleak dystopias though they may be. Bleak dystopias with mixed, international movies creating sensibilities too, which sometimes feels awkward (Korean bloody, horror film violence and American sugary heroism all in the one scene) but works well enough.

Mostly.

Why Korean? The bulk of the funding came from the Korean government but Harvey Weinstein thinks enough of it to handle the world release. The director, two key actors and rather large crew are Korean. It’s a real international production though – with lots of support roles being filled by Czech actors, locations set in the Czech Republic and Austria, and the bulk of the major roles being filled by Brits, with Captain America (Chris Evans) and Octavia Spencer flying the flag for the USA.

A mixed bag, the crew is largely Korean and the cast rather international with actors from the UK, USA and Czech Republic.

My husband pointed out that John Hurt played the same role he does in every movie – but that is balanced out with Tilda Swinton’s character who was the standout of the whole movie for me. She is terrifying, comical and desperate.

Based on a French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige which was first published in 1982, I must admit I have not read it. But after perusing the synopsis on Wikipedia, I think the writer (and director), Bong Joon-ho, has played fast and loose with the story.

And here is where you need to suspend disbelief.

The idea of a perpetual motion train. Ok.

The extreme depiction of society. Ok.

The idea of the food source (don’t worry, it’s not Soylent Green). Ok.

 An aquarium and an orangerie onboard – why not?

… But nightclubs, a pool and steaks without a livestock carriage??

 Another grump…at university I was taught not to have plot points revealed in speeches but in action—‘do, don’t talk about it’—apparently this is not the Korean way. Great slabs of monotone dialogue deliver the most important parts of the story whilst the action focuses on some freaky fighting.

There are some Korean movies I have enjoyed although I do suspect that we are not meant to see a complete dystopia but rather one where ideas can be worked out; where action is symbolic rather than literal.

What we are looking at here is a construct, like The Matrix.

The train, the whole story, is a just a way to explore human nature. Classic Hollywood shove people into a lifeboat, a desert, a sinking submarine. Novels abandon people on islands (Lord of the Flies) – all just to see what will happen.

To see who will rise and who will fall.

To illustrate the human condition, our frailties and to hold a mirror up to our world, usually the greed inherent in our western lifestyle but I suspect the world under the microscope is a Communist society.

A good film if you want to think about (or argue) the future afterwards—but beware, this pleasant chat may quickly turn to the implausibility of the story.

Roslyn saw this film as a guest of Dendy Cinemas.

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Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author