This is actually not a review. This is an endorsement of the new South Korean/American science-fiction film Snowpiercer, currently in theaters.

Bong Joon-ho is a director to watch. From The Host in 2006 and Mother in 2009, I’ve been checking for his work for years. He has such a solid visual storytelling style that he elevates even the most middling of scripts. I really cannot wait to see what he does next. If you have yet to see the aforementioned films, you need to handle that as soon as you can.

snowpiercerposter1By now, most of you are pretty familiar with the premise of Snowpierecer: in trying to heal the world, the earth was plunged into a new ice age. A train, propelled by a “perpetual motion engine” circumnavigates the globe once per year. The train — carrying what may be the last of humanity — is arranged by socioeconomic class with the lower classes in the rear and living in abject conditions.

I don’t write many reviews because I hate to spoil things, but there is a line that chilled me to my core: “I hate that I know what human flesh tastes like, and that babies taste best.” This gives you a glimpse into just how bleak the film is.

The closer we move towards the engine, the more rarefied the air. In our 99% vs. the 1% times, Snowpiercer works as a near-perfect allegory for our current class struggles. Despite some plot holes that would be unforgivable in a lesser film — and not to mention that some of the science is, well, not so science-y — this has got to be one of the smartest science fiction films of the last several years. I would put it on the same level of Duncan Jones’ 2009 masterpiece Moon — one of my favorite films of all time. While Moon presented a beautifully quiet character exploration, Snowpiercer gives us sci-fi action at its best.

This film has some of the best (and brutally) choreographed fights and action scenes I’ve seen in a very long time. In this film, violence has consequences for all involved. Damn… I really don’t want to give too much away. If you’ve seen the visceral “hammer scene” in Park Chan-wook’s over-hyped — but still really good — Oldboy… every confrontation in this movie is like that, but amped several levels of intensity higher.

Highs:

  • This film is a live action version of one of my all-time favorite graphic novels, the French Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. While you do not need to read the graphic novel, if you can find it, I urge you to read it. When it came out in 1982, it was a revelation for the graphic novel form.

transperceneige

  • There were so many people of color in this film. Not just as some window dressing like in the Harry Potter films, but as actual integral parts of the environment.
  • Tilda Swinton is a beast! She is stellar in this film. She is so… Ayn Rand. You cannot help but hate her.  An amazing performance.

Lows:

  • As I alluded to earlier, Snowpiercer is more fiction than science. Depending on your bent, this may or may not take you out of the narrative.
  • Ugh. There were some leaps of logic and plot holes that felt like popcorn in my teeth, but maybe I expect too much from films?
  • This has to have been the single worst Ed Harris performance I’ve suffered through. I kept wondering if he knew what movie he was in. It was damn near painful to watch.

Since this is the U.S. and we prioritize shit-fests like the Transformers films, I’m not sure how many of you are going to be able to see this movie in theaters. I know that it is coming to VOD soon, but if you can catch it in the theater, do so. It is meant to be experienced on the big screen, and you deserve to see it that way.

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