Review / ‘Snowpiercer’ (M) *** and a half

“Snowpiercer”

“Snowpiercer”

FROM South Korean filmmaker Joon-ho Bong comes a futurist cinematic parable that refuses to compromise on its discomfiting bits (from the opening frame until about a minute before the final credits).

In the 2030 decade, a botched attempt to halt global warming has led Planet Earth to freeze solid and dead. Around it, squillionaire Wilford (Ed Harris) has built Snowpiercer, a self sustaining train carrying a microcosm of humanity on a perpetual journey. At the back, lower-class people ride in hard class, fed on blocks of synthetic food, controlled by brutal guards. Toward the front, behind the engine that keeps the whole thing going, well-to-do people live in comfort.

The plot resembles the 1381 revolt by English peasants against cruel conditions or in 1917 when Russian workers overthrew the Tsar. Leading the Snowpiercer revolt is Curtis (Chris Evans), supported by Gilliam (John Hurt), security expert Nam (Kang-ho Song) and his daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko). Leading Wilford’s supporting functionaries (our city knows how important this group is for implementing policy) is Mason (Tilda Swinton sporting a prosthetic overbite turning this magnificent woman and sublime actor into a frightening bully and, like all bullies, a coward).

The behaviour of Snowpiercer’s characters ranges among tragic, distasteful or cruel. The plot stretches willing suspension of disbelief to its limit while keeping a firm grip on message. We are killing our planet. The possibilities for human behaviour as that death approaches are impossible to predict, but will not be pleasant. That might be a good reason for seeing the film.

At Dendy and Palace Electric from August 21

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