Craig's First Take: "Snowpiercer"

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In 2014, an experiment to counteract global warming causes an ice age that kills nearly all life on Earth. The only survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train, powered by a perpetual-motion engine, that travels on a globe-spanning track. A class system is installed, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and poor inhabiting the tail.
3.5

In case the three hour “Transformers: Age of Extinction” sounds like Hollywood barfing into a bag and calling it fun to you, here’s “Snowpiercer” on VOD, a fast-hurdle of an action sci-fi flick from South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho. It’s his first English language film and it stars Chris Evans as Curtis. Taking place in a future where humanity’s attempts to stop global warming have failed, the snow has frozen over and the few people left have been forced to take refuge in a train barreling through the icey country. The battle between haves and have-nots is nothing new, nor is it particularly explored for any depth here, but once Curtis and his crew of rear-train have-nots decide to stage a revolt in order to get to the haves in the front of the train, it’s hard to deny that this movie has some impressive sequences like Curtis and crew having to fight some axe-wielding masked thugs, or them wandering upon a school of creepy indoctrinated kids, or Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris showing up as eccentric haves who have a seriously skewed and screwed up authoritarianism. The train reminds me a bit of “The Raid”, every car offers something new (one part is devoted to agriculture, one is a dance club, one is a Sauna room) and each one seems like a new level and everything from the settings to the hair and make-up make for a ridiculously weird, but still also fairly suspenseful, mood. And this is one of Chris Evan's better performances. Much of it is all driven revenge, which works fine, but he also nails a key scene later where he describes the disturbing conditions that made up most of his life on the train. Jamie Bell and John Hurt (the later sporting a peg leg, and an umbrella handle as a hand) also play key, small roles and do them well. You wish Bong and his co-screenwriter Kelly Masterson’s social consciousness weren’t so cut and dry but the movie is solid, violent, bloody, and action-packed.