Mania Review: Snowpiercer -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: A

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  • Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spenser, Ko Ah-Song, Alison Pill, John Hurt and Ed Harris
  • Written by: Bong Joon-Ho and Kelly Masterson
  • Directed by: Bong Joon-Ho
  • Studio: The Weinstein Company
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 126 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Snowpiercer

AKA The One That Doesn't Suck

By Rob Vaux     June 27, 2014

© Mania/Robert Trate

 I’m sure everyone is expecting a Transformers review, and we’ll have one presently, but we wanted to wait on it a bit… mostly because of the superior film opening opposite it. Snowpiercer deserves your money infinitely more than Michael Bay’s latest boom machine, and thanks to Harvey Weinstein, it’s being dumped without a whisper opposite the biggest movie of the year. Weinstein wanted to recut the ending and now he’s making a point about directors who refuse him. The movie itself – easily one of the best science fiction films of the year – has been unjustly reduced to a chew toy for his ego.

Hollywood squabbles aside, you won’t regret wading through the hordes of people waiting for Optimus Prime in order give this one a look. It starts with an absurdly simple premise, then develops every aspect of it until it blossoms into a fully grown universe. In this case, that means another apocalypse: covering the world with ice and lowering temperatures to lethal levels. Humanity’s only core of survivors now occupies a single long train, powered by an engine that requires constant motion and built as a self-sustaining ecosystem. Naturally, social inequities onboard are as bad as ever. The rich live it up in the front cars while the poor dine on pureed garbage in the back. Revolution comes, as it always does in these scenarios, led by a quiet malcontent (Chris Evans) who needs to fight his way car by car in order to reach the engine.

Director Bong Joon-ho has earned quite a reputation with earlier films like Mother and The Host. Here, it scores him an A-list cast, including Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spenser and Ed Harris (as well as stalwart Korean regular Song Kang-ho). They act as our guides as we move through the various layers of the train, punctuated by shocking violence as the powers-that-be fight back. The straightforward outline supports a gorgeously realized universe, sandwiched inside those metal cars and strung together like a pearl necklace. Bong adds plenty of surprises along its length, which he preserves by keeping us focused on Evans’ revolutionary the whole time. He’s never been out of the squalid ghetto in back, and the shocks of every new layer are as new to him as they are to us. It lends him a natural affinity, as well as providing an easy way to craft a story simply by showing us what’s in the next car.

Bong makes it look so easy, even though the material (based on French graphic novel) could go wrong a thousand times or more along the way. The obvious social commentary and point-and-click development scream for a slap-dash director more interested in cheap product than making anything worth seeing. But Snowpiercer finds a way not only to revel in the larger implications about our savage nature, but to do so in the context of a wildly inventive action film to boot. It gives much thought to those pesky little questions that other films view as obstacles. What happens when mechanical parts on the train wear out? Wouldn’t the conditions outside be too dangerous to risk conflict? Bong considers all of them very carefully, then turns them into awesome plot twists rather than the nuisances a lesser director would treat them as.

I say “fun” and it certainly can be that, though it never comes at the expense of the intensity that made his earlier films so compelling. Every frame drips of desperation, of a world on the verge of extinction and struggling mightily to change its tune before the lights go out. Bong never flinches from the story’s dark corners, but neither does he let that stop his mischievous wit from coming through. As a result, the film becomes everything we want a science-fiction story to be, with the same mixture of crowd-pleasing thrills and more thoughtful social commentary that the likes of District 9 displayed with ease. Snowpiercer makes a strong case for joining their ranks, one that won’t get any weaker no matter how many blockbusters they throw in its way. In a just world, it would have a proper marketing drive behind it, along with a release date that gives the audience a chance to discover it. As it stands, we’ll have to do it the slow and painful way: one fan at a time. Thankfully, the film itself won’t let us down in that department.  Seek it out and give it a look, then tell us that we’re wrong. 


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VTGamehendge 6/27/2014 12:06:51 AM

I had already made up my mind to see this.  I'll probably try and check it out next week on a weeknight.  Might even decide to see this before Transformers.

Muenster 6/27/2014 1:12:32 AM

Saw it 3 weeks ago. It was just as bad as T4. Stupid concept and stupid premise. F plus, but only because Chris Evans, at least tried to commit to the fantastically dorky script.


NEW SNOWPIERCER Poster (Article) - 6/11/2014 7:39:04 PM

Watched this movie last night. Two questions that kept bugging me were:

Why does the train need to keep moving?

If a snowy avalanche could derail the train so easily, how did it manage to avoid them for 17 years?

This film attempted to explain why class structures exist, and makes a decent attempt with exposition as to how the heads of each class often acted in logical collusion to keep the numbers sustainable.

This choo-choo movie tried to be a heady social commentary film, but it only gets heavy with knife and gun fights as it chugs along, making stops in some silly preposterous luxury cars full of people that still act as though the cold weather apocalypse never happened. One stop towards the end of the movie is actually in one of the front cars that has been hosting a 24 7 365 disco dance trance party full of writhing people and crazy lights.

This film would have made better sense if it had been a short Outer Limits episode. Such a schedule would have allowed this film to be an express, thereby not subjecting the viewer to so many useless stops to pick up tired plot devices and class warfare cliches.

What a train-wreck. How they managed to get Swinton, Harris, and Evans on board eludes me.

Do yourself a favor. Don't board this train. Wait for the next one.

kalonthar 6/27/2014 1:14:55 AM

I just have to see this movie. I've never seen a film before that was so praised by critics and seemingly ripped to shreds by everyone else. I'm sure there have been plenty of movies where that happened, but I've never experienced it.

blankczech 6/27/2014 8:27:34 AM

 Not surprised to see Muensters comments.  This sci-fi movie is an allegory for a struggle which has been going on forever.  Some might be surprised at how many people would root for the wealthy and privileged (instead of those nasty poor people) in a class war. Those folks won't be happy with the message in this flick (just as they disliked District 9).

Picking apart the movie on the grounds of how could the train do this or that do that is silly on a website that deals with comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and horror.  You can pick apart any movie in those genres based on reality and logic.  It's called suspending your disbelief.  Don't get caught up in hard science...enjoy the theme...or not.

I'll see this...whether it's Hunger Games, Elysium or Snowpiercer...I enjoy watching rich folk who were never taught that it's nice to share (with those less fortunate)...get their asses kicked.


monkeyfoot 6/27/2014 8:54:58 AM

Somebody gave me a file of this a couple of months ago and I still haven't looked at it. I'll have to make a point of watching it.

TheSilentKiller 6/27/2014 9:43:48 AM

 This one is interesting - there seems to be a lot of scorn from audiences, even though the critics love it.

ActionMovieGod 6/27/2014 10:55:07 AM

Transformers was EPIC!!!

momitchell7 6/27/2014 11:04:46 AM

Blank... you've chosen to been blinded by the media left, I see. I know a lot of wealthy people and I can tell you that they do a lot more to help those less fortunate than those who are less fortunate and are constantly begging for handouts, complaining about the rich, rather than making a sincere effort to better their own lives. 

BTW - not every rich person was born with a  silver spoon in their mouths... millions of people have chosen to overcome their poor circumstances by working hard to accomplish great things in their lives... And have.

Newdude718 6/27/2014 12:08:57 PM

Just watched the trailer and this movie is pretty much if hunger games was on a train with captain America instead of the chic with the arrows. I can not imagine setting in a theater and watching this def will wait till the bootleg guy on nostrand ave has a copy for 2$. 

VTGamehendge 6/27/2014 12:09:32 PM

Hehe, bong...

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