How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse, part 3: Snowpiercer (2014)
I once toyed with the idea of doing a film series called “The Overrated” and jamming it full of terrible films that receive a vigorous critical nut massage, either by legitimate critics such as Bradshaw of The Guardian (looking at you, Bridesmaids), or from fat, terminally virginal “geek” reviewers (take your pick, there are millions of them), or even films that achieve massive critical and commercial acclaim across the board while, frankly, stinking (paging Forrest Gump). Anyway, I discarded the idea on the basis that each review would be a mixture of me ranting and being bewildered, or sometimes even supplying a bit of bewildered ranting. Nevertheless, I’m more than a little bit disappointed to have my shiny new Apocalypse series tainted by one of this category with 2014’s insanely overrated Snowpiercer chugging out of the station.
Contains a worse train service than Thameslink and Spoilers below.
Anyone that knows me knows that I hate many things. However, there’s certain afflictions of modern life that drive me absolutely apocalyptic: Boring films and Trains. Snowpiercer, sadly, heavily features a train (the name of the train actually provides the title of the film), and is monumentally fucking boring. I’ve seen it described as “absorbing” and “intelligent” all over the place, but it’s neither- it’s in the same category as Watchmen with opacity being mistaken for depth and if this is “absorbing” cinema, it’s in the same way that Pampers nappies are absorbent.
Snowpiercer is, and I’m completely unsurprised to find this out, based on a French funnybook. This would explain a lot. Nevertheless, in 2014, some movie scientist had the bright idea of pumping the upper atmosphere full of chemicals to halt global warming, accidentally bringing on an instant ice age. D’oh. I bet the chemicals even came in green vials, because as a rule of thumb, nothing Movie Scientists come up with that is served up in the form of a green vial ever has a good outcome. Or even the intended outcome. Nevertheless, Humanity has somehow all been eliminated with the survivors travelling around the world on the train The Snowpiercer.
In an analogy of quite breathtaking stupidity, the train is divided into class-based sections, with the wealthy in the First Class carriages eating swan or some such gobbledygook, and the poor living in the rear of the train being fed on dubious looking protein bars. This train carries the remnants of humanity; being where our species resides from birth to death. To be fair, though, I’ve taken trains that felt like they lasted that long before, so props to the realism.
At the rear of the train reside Curtis and Edgar (Chris Evans, and I’ve never seen him so unlikable, and Jamie Bell). They’re planning a revolution under the guidance of Gilliam (John Hurt), but need to liberate Song Kang-ho’s Namgoong and his clairvoyant daughter Yona to do it (although they’re hooked on the blazingly unsubtle Soma substitute, Kronole). Anyhoo, our hero’s (for wont of a better word for them) battle towards the front of the train, impeded by Tilda Swinton’s “Mason” to meet up with Wilford (Ed Harris) in the engine room and reveal the true horror of the train. Fucking yawn.
This is the spoiler pulling in to the station now, so ignore the next paragraph if you want to remain virginal, and whatnot.
The train basically is failing, and can’t sustain the volume of humanity on board. Before the protein bars, the poor in the back had to resort to Cannibalism to survive (although quite why this wasn’t the case for the other carriages is one of many, many plotholes never considered). As such, Wilford has arranged this revolution to fail in order to eliminate 75%ish of the train’s passengers and carry on chugging through the snow blasted landscape. Unfortunately, Wilford is getting too old to keep overseeing the engine and basically wants Curtis to take over. Quite why he needs Curtis is never properly explained. Anyhoo, it turns out that the Snowpiercer runs on children! as Soylent Green style revelations go, this one strangely has no impact. Nevertheless, Curtis can’t be having this so him and Namgoong derail the train. The final shot of the film is the two kids, Timmy and Yona, looking at a Polar Bear proving that life is still going on Planet Earth.
Spoiler departing now.
It’s very rare that I viscerally dislike a film as much as I did this one. In part, it’s down to the character writing, with not one redeemable, relatable or likable character in it. Curtis, for example, our hero, was about to eat a young Edgar back in the day, and is perfectly willing to sacrifice his number 2 to continue up the train. Given what the fucking stupid 1% analogy is aiming at, it makes perfect sense for the elite of the train to be shown as unconscionable sociopaths, but he’s our fucking hero, for the love of God. Talking about the crass analogy, anyone paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, minimum, for making a movie that costs 10’s of millions of dollars to make, that generates profit for a corporation in the hundreds of millions of dollars range has absolutely no right to be throwing stones at glass houses, given that they live in the largest greenhouse on Greenhouse Street, in the town of Greenhouse, capital city of Greenhouse land.
I’m definitely not in the 1%, but for fuckssakes, the writer and director of this shite most certainly are. I don’t begrudge them their success (I actually like Bong Joon-Ho and Park Chan-Wook’s other films) but I do begrudge them delivering a thinly veiled pompous and hypocritical lecture to me when I’m meant to be watching some post-apocalyptic awesomeness. There’s certainly a time and a place for this type of theme, but really, try to at least pay lip service to subtlety.
Then there’s the acting. Evans is normally likable on screen (well, I find him so), but not here. His Curtis is a boring, grumpy sod and about as likely the leader of the revolution as I am given that he’s about as inspiring as getting toilet roll stuck to your shoe. I’ve never liked Jamie Bell, finding him only marginally less annoying than James McAvoy, so it’s no surprise that I don’t like him in this. But my real hatred is reserved for Tilda Swinton’s idiotic performance as Mason. For an actress as usually good as she is, and as certainly garlanded as she is, to deliver a performance as breathtakingly stupid and film-derailingly awful as this one came as something of a real shock to me. With her thick northern accent, crap look, and annoying mannerisms, every single second she’s on screen the film suffers. Thus, it was no surprise to find out where she drew inspiration for this atrocity from:
[It’s Thatcher] mixed in with all the rest of the gang — with Silvio Berlusconi, with Gaddafi, with Adolf Hitler, with people in North Korea and maybe even a little bit of bombast from the United States.
What the fuck? Lord spare me from cretinous luvvie actors and their moronic proclamations. On what planet is Maggie (not that I’m a fan) in the same category as Gaddafi and Hitler? I can kind of see Berlusconi as he is both a clown and a fascist, but spare me from this typically Hampstead nonsense. It’s gibberish like this that really gives the left wing a bad name. Try to keep some sense of fucking perspective, for the love of God. Bong had to rein her in, apparently, so christ knows what she really wanted to do.
I’m (again) making this sound like an Orangutan of Doom candidate, but it isn’t. On an aesthetic level, Snowpiercer is a good looking film, with the outside snowscape particularly attractive and the squalor inside shot well. So there is that. But, for me, that’s not enough to overcome the relentless boredom of the film, the pompous sermonising and the shitty acting. I’ve genuinely not disliked a film as much as this one in a while, but I grudgingly conceding that it is at least a decent looking load of shit.
- Date: 2031
- Extinction Event: Planet killing ice age bought on by movie scientist stupidity
- Main Hazards: Class warfare. And idiotic luvvies.
- Chances of Survival of the Species: I sort of want to say decent, as once the train derails we see that life is still happening. However, they’re still stuck in freezing temperatures with no decent protection and hungry polar bears around. Hopefully the big ursine buggers will eat them all.
- Rating: Shite. Boring, pompous shite. Have one smiley mushroom cloud out of four, and I think that’s bloody generous of me.
Haven’t decided where to go next, but it’ll definitely be better than this loaf.