Snowpiercer ★★★½


Half visionary madness, half brain-dead blockbuster—a truly fascinating combination. It's stupid and blunt in more or less the same ways that, say, Elysium was, which can get frustrating; Bong has no more use for tonal consistency than he ever has, though, so instead of Jodie Foster strangling on some generic plutocrat's tiresome dictates, we get Tilda Swinton doing her impression of Monty Python's "Upperclass Twit of the Year" routine and Alison Pill leading a gaggle of obnoxiously cheery schoolkids in a song that begins "What happens if the engine stops? / We all freeze and die!" Some of this may well come from the graphic novel (which I haven't read), but the deliberately clashing sensibilities are vintage Bong, and the resulting whiplash keeps you alert and amused even when the film's class-war allegory gets heavy-handed. Plus, the train is just an amazing set (or series of sets, rather), with each successive car along the forward journey more memorably ostentatious than the last. (Again, a comparison to Elysium is instructive—same basic idea, but confining the luxury to cylindrical compartments productively trips up the eye.) Nice work with the exposition, too, which is almost entirely postponed until the film's second half; Curtis' question "How can I lead if I have two good arms?" remains an apparent non sequitur for a remarkably long time, with the earlier scene of Ewen Bremner's horrific punishment just adding to the (healthy) confusion. Biggest problem: Chris Evans still bores me to literal distraction, so I was half-rooting for Skulkin' Vlad Ivanov to take him out.