A solid R. A clean, solid R. Oh, in no way is this movie clean. It's violent as heeeeeeeeccccckkkkk. It's like a clean cut R. Like an ax going through a neck kind of clean cut. That's what I mean.
DIRECTOR: Bong Joon Ho
I don't want to write. I have too many of these to write. I forever renounce film and I won't watch anything again. It has nothing to do with you, Bong Joon Ho. I just want to gripe and get under a blanket and eat a bunch of junk food. I'll have to exclusively watch episodic television so I won't have to write a review about it afterwards. "But, Tim," my wife will say. "You don't have to write these." I KNOW THAT I DON'T HAVE TO WRITE THESE, LAUREN! But I do. [breathes out] I do.
I first discovered Bong Joon Ho with The Host. That movie blew my mind. It got me into both Korean horror and Korean filmmaking all around. The Host had this weird creepiness and this simultaneous beauty that I would have a hard time describing. I remember wanting to recommend it to everyone and wanting to recommend it to no one because I'm sure the demographic for that movie is tiny. But I loved that movie and haven't really watched it a ton since then. When I found out that Bong Joon Ho was going to do Snowpiercer, I ran out and got the first volume of the graphic novel series and devoured it in a day. Admittedly, it wasn't very long, so digesting it wasn't a huge chore. But I didn't get a chance to watch it in the theater. Then my wife bought it for me on Blu-ray. This was at a time where I was desperately trying to cut our expenses. Knowing it was on Netflix, I returned the movie only to find out that it had left Netflix by the time I could sit down to watch it. So what mistake did I make? I had overhyped it and got myself chomping at the bit for it. I knew that there was no way that the movie was going to live up to my expectations, but that's okay. The movie is still pretty good and I had a good time. It just wasn't the mindblowing movie that I needed it to be.
Is it weird that Chris Evans has now been in four comic book adaptations? He's Captain America, he was the guy from The Losers, he was Johnny Storm, and now he's in Snowpiercer. What works most from Chris Evans's story is that his character is an awesome mystery. There are a bunch of separate mysteries that work to varying degrees of success. Oddly enough, even though Evans's story is a fairly minor one, his mystery really works the best. I'm doing the worst thing for you right now, hyping it up. But the reason it works is that it is wonderfully character building. The other mysteries kind of have a world building element to them and it is dependent on that mystery. But I don't really care about Wilson's background. I am the kind of guy who likes the first Predator movie. I don't always need a ton of explanation. But the movie is intentionally cryptic throughout. So the movie gives answers and the movie doesn't always have the best answers. I think I'm just going to have to go into SPOILERS. Sorry, it's a movie about solving mysteries and finding out everyone's secrets. I don't want to analyze a film without talking about what works and what doesn't. Ed Harris is always the big reveal at the end. He will forever be the architect archetype. He's the man behind the curtain. I'm sure if MGM considered going back and reworking The Wizard of Oz, there's a solid chance that Harris would be the man behind the curtain. The movie has this cool reveal, but it is almost entirely based on how cool that reveal is. That reveal, unfortunately, is not very realistic. It makes very little sense for John Hurt's character to be in on the events of the story. It's borderline silly. Similarly, having Ed Harris recruit Evans makes very little sense. He's so cocky about the whole thing and knows that it is going to work.
But it doesn't. Of course it doesn't. Why would he be cocky about that whole plan? The fact that the plan didn't work and you were cocky about it makes the whole plan kind of dumb. I know, I know. He assumes that the world outside is uninhabitable. Let's also establish that just because people leave the train for a bit (which is its own moment of shutting my brain off, because c'mon.) doesn't mean that the world is habitable. Temperatures change, especially at night. But ignoring all of that, this is one of those stories where the overcomplicated plot clearly won't work. It's always put on the nobility of the protagonist to move past the obvious temptation. But the fact that the simple answer of "maybe he just won't go for it" never crosses the villain's mind. That's a bit silly.
The real disappointment that I had with the movie (and, again, I state that I really like the movie) is that my favorite aspect of the film is a rush job. When Chris Evans and company open doors, they enter a new financial class. These door opening reveals should all be new worlds. That does happen. And for a while, it is very effective. There's this tension that comes with opening doors and wondering what is going to be behind each one. That is awesome. But I think that everyone involved realized pretty quickly that it is going to be hard to trump the previous door every time. I get it. There's a tipping point to the awe of what is shown. But there is a good chunk of the film where the characters are just speeding through the doors. But the doors provide a separate element to the film. If the entire film is an allegory for class structure, there isn't a ton of sense to just the sheer difference between the haves and the have-nots. This is a future where the rich become even more self-involved. It makes the villainous extremely villainous. There is no sympathy for the back of the trainers. I can't imagine the front of the train having their hair done and enjoying sushi without someone protesting the back of the train. Rather, the proletariat has to rise up without sympathizers. But that is the only real dynamic that works in a movie like this. It allows for ultra-violence and that's where the movie gains its legs. Like The Host, Bong Joon Ho paints that pretty picture that is super gory. The movie looks the most beautiful in the scenes of violence. There was a Crazy-88like sequence in the movie that was super cool. This is where I let my brain shut off for a while and simply enjoy how cool the sequence could be. It was scary and well shot and I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff. When the movie is focusing on the sheer odds of these underdogs who like chopping up rich people that works. Having Tilda Swinton as the embodiment of the establishment also works. Having her in the center of the violence kind of has that Joffrey / Game of Thrones effect. There is always hope that a random ax would get her in the head. Sure, she plays the part a little more Hunger Games than I would have cared for. But this movie doesn't really mind going over the top and that is probably a good decision.
The movie is Les Miserables with a lot more violence and a sci-fi setting. (And, no, not every version of Les Miserables has singing in it. I stand by my initial statement.) I like it. Heck, I had a lot of fun with it and it stuck to my bones for a while afterwards. I just don't think it really hit the expectations I had. I remember reading that the Korean version is a far better cut and that we never really got to see that movie. If it ever comes out, I might give it a whirl. But the movie does the job and that's all I can really ask.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.