THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!
Directed by Joon-ho Bong
"I didn’t get it. That’s not to say I hated the movie. I just didn’t get."
Cult movies are a hell of a thing. Even back in the day (you know, before the fancy interwebs) certain movies created buzz before being released. Usually, however, cult flicks find their audiences after the fact and take on a life of their own.
Throughout the last year, I kept hearing about a potential cult movie called Snowpiercer. For whatever reason, I never bothered to click on any news stories and forgot about it until last night when several friends and I gathered for “shitty” (but good shitty) movie night. Snowpiercer was the choice.
And I didn’t get it. That’s not to say I hated the movie. I just didn’t get.
Snowpiercer is one of the few movies where I went in completely cold without knowing a damn thing beyond that it was a South Korean effort and that it starred the ever-forgettable Chris Evans (seriously I wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a line up even if he wore his Captain American uniform).
I’ve seen many movies in my day, but I can’t think of another quite like Snowpiercer. Oh sure, it’s takes place in a familiar post-apocalyptic world with people divided between the usual have and have nots, but director Joon-ho Bong’s style and tone is what left me baffled. I couldn’t figure it out, which I believe was his idea…but still. I couldn’t decipher what was camp, what was dramatic, and what was funny. In the midst of a ridiculously violent (but quite awesome) ax bloodbath, Evans slips on a fish in near Pink Panther style only to keep the action going.
I didn’t get it.
Then there was a very, very long sequence with a demented grade school teacher that felt out of place and weird for the sake of being weird. It felt forced. I'm all for weird, but there has to be some consistency, doen't there?
But something about the movie must work. It attracted big talent actors who were all game, including Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton (who I did not recognize until someone pointed her out), Kang-ho Song, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris. That’s a hell of a cast in a hell of an odd ass movie. Swinton steals the film as she chews scenes like they’re laced in crack. She looks like an extra for Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” video from back in the day.
I do love the premise even though it left me with more questions than answers. The idea of being stuck on a locomotive that can’t stop for nearly two decades is an interesting one. Life would get weird quickly. The effects also looked pretty good. Shit sure did look cold outside. At times Snowpiercer reminded me of Escape from New York with the style and effects, but Carpenter's film has a specific beat that he never wavered from. This movie could've used that beat.
For some reason the thing that bothered me the most was the action inside the train. Perhaps the volume wasn’t cranked high enough (we watched it outside) but it never sounded or felt like we were inside the train. The camera and the cast were steady as hell as if perfectly safe on a sound stage. At least go the Star Trek of Jaws route of ambient noise or a constant slight moving of the camera. Anything to keep the viewer in the moment, where we couldn’t escape the thought of never leaving the train.
I have to admit that by the end I was strangely interested in seeing the thing once again. It played like the film version of Double Dragon that never was, with Evans and company fighting their way through one level after another until they reach the man at the top, at the final level. Perhaps I need to battle through it one more time to appreciate, or…everyone else is just dead wrong about it.