Directed by Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer inhabits a post- apocalyptic, ice-lavished world where humanity is violently reduced by a failed global warming experiment and is made to live on a bullet train of continuous movement. For the fraction of humanity that is left, survival is dependent upon the train and its society. The trouble is, though, that not everybody is satisfied with their place in this society. Centred on Curtis (Chris Evans), a reluctant leader of the disenfranchised masses, the narrative focuses on the society’s revolt against the authoritarian system as they gradually move up through the train’s carriages.
Mason (Tilda Swinton) is the face of this authority. Enforcing the society’s rules through passages of chilling dialogue and ruthless punishment, she is one of many antagonists that stand in the way of Curtis and his revolutionaries. The creator of the train’s engine, however, is their biggest adversary. Dubbed by the name ‘Wilford’, which is referred to almost religiously in the upper carriages, he represents to Curtis, and to everyone else at the foot of the train, a way of living that has marginalised them for the entirety of their lives in this society. His perpetuation of rules and structures through the hands of others has slowly manifested into a mythic representation of what he wants for humanity and what he thinks of societies.
In terms of direction, Snowpiercer navigates every inch of its confined setting with surgical precision, mastering its space with a visual fluency that never feels repetitive or claustrophobic. Joon-ho brings a particularly Korean flavour to the production too, informing its use of action and sense of humour to increasingly fresh effect.
Tilda Swinton, who channels Margaret Thatcher in a way that marries cartoonish villainy and a disturbing specificity, steals every scene she’s given. Chris Evans is serviceable in the lead role, but feels uncertain in a crucial monologue near the film’s end that threatens to derail its momentum. The casting of ‘Wilford’, however, feels delightfully meta, and imparts the way you view and look back on the film as a whole.
Like a rabbit-hole, Snowpiercer pulls you into its strange world and mines gold from its perceptively simple ideas. Themes of society, structure and revolution are threaded seamlessly into its narrative without ever feeling like its pontificating or drawing focus away from the film’s visceral pleasures.
High concept science fiction is rarely feasible, but in the assured hands of Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer has an uncommon gravity in its materialisation that keeps its high-wire act from toppling over. There are a couple of nits to be picked, sure, but its final moments redeem any misgivings and suggest something genuinely moving and profound: that no matter what happens to societies, humanity will always find a way to survive and live on past them.
Thanks to Palace Nova Cinemas for providing the opportunity to review this film.
By Sebastian Moore
Film: Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel Studios has done it again. After showing off their most popular characters in blockbusters like The Avengers (2012), they’ve turned to their more obscure comic books for ideas. This time, we’re introduced to a gang of lovable misfits in one of the funniest and most enjoyable films of the year, Guardians of the Galaxy.
After stealing a mysterious orb, outlaw Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the subject of an intergalactic hunt. Religious fanatic Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) leads the chase, determined to use the orb to destroy the planet Xandar. Quill—or Star-Lord, as he prefers to be known by—is then forced to form an uneasy alliance with assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana), warrior Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), talking raccoon Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and walking, talking tree Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).
Writer and Director James Gunn has produced a highly entertaining space adventure, masterfully blending action and spectacle with humour and heart. There’s a lot of oddity on display and Gunn manages a consistent tone throughout. A sombre opening scene is soon followed by Quill dancing through temple ruins, without feeling out of place. It’s a fast-paced rollercoaster of adventure that earnestly wears its heart on its sleeve, rewarding the audience with one of the best Marvel films to date. The film also contains a wonderfully retro soundtrack of 70s pop hits that ultimately plays an important role in the film’s plot—good luck trying to get Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ out of your head any time soon.
What really makes Guardians soar is its vibrant characters. Each of our reluctant heroes has their own rich back-story and unique personality. Pratt is both hilarious and charming, and it’s great to see slacker Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation transform into leading man. Saldana strikes a great balance between tough- as-nails and vulnerable as the troubled foil to Pratt’s Quill. Former professional wrestler Bautista is a pleasant surprise as the very literal Drax, getting some of the biggest laughs in the film. For Rocket Raccoon, Cooper does his best Joe Pesci impersonation. And in gentle giant Groot, this movie will make you fall in love with a talking tree.
Other great actors such as Michael Rooker, John C Reilly and Glenn Close round out the supporting cast. The only thing Guardians seems to lack is truly compelling villains. Lee Pace as Ronan and Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan as Nebula have little to do other than to act menacing. However, this seems to fit with the simple, Indiana Jones-style plot and the colourful protagonists make up for it.
This film truly made me feel like a little kid again. The joy and excitement it leaves you with as the credits roll makes you anxious with anticipation for the sequel. Overflowing with fun, emotion and extraordinary characters, Guardians of the Galaxy really succeeds. And as always with Marvel movies, remember to stay until after the credits!
Thanks to Palace Nova Cinemas for providing the opportunity to review this film.
By Alex Graham
Film: If I Stay
‘Life is a big, fat, gigantic, stinky mess and that’s the beauty of it too.’
‘Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.’
What does this mean? I’m not really sure and I actually saw the movie.
I feel like I should have been warned that If I Stay was based on a Young Adult novel before I entered the cinema.
Filled to the brim with clichéd and cheesy one-liners, the film packs every situation that could possibly make a teenager cry, ‘smooshes’ them into one film, and then hurls it at the viewer, hoping that something will strike a chord.
The only thing that didn’t make the cut was terminal illness, but let’s leave that to The Fault in Our Stars.
The closest we get is a coma-laden Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz), who after a horrific car accident is able to walk through the hospital in spirit form, staring teary-eyed at her friends and family while they cry around her body.
Her too-cool-for-school parents (I couldn’t help but think they were hoping to emulate Emma Stone’s on-screen parents in Easy A), and her annoyingly, overly supportive little brother, were also involved in the collision, and their fate after the crash is drawn out for maximum emotional damage.
The film uses flashbacks of Mia’s life as another device to elicit emotion from the viewer. We see her dramatic struggles with her musician boyfriend, her passion for cello, and her all-too- perfect home life spliced between scenes of her spirit running around the hospital; a reminder of everything that could be lost.
Moretz is a great little actor and this film is no exception—I’ve loved her work ever since the first Kick Ass.
However, I couldn’t get past the overly- dramatic nature of the film (I found myself cringing during certain scenes and rolling my eyes at others), and by the end of it I almost started to pray that someone would take the initiative to pull the cord to Mia’s life-support, thereby sparing me the trauma of watching any more of the movie.
By Ben Allison