“Snowpiercer”–Don’t Get on This Train

Snowpiercer

“Snowpiercer“(2013), directed by the Korean master Bong Joon-ho (of “Mother” fame) is a sci-fi dystopia in the year 2031, after a failed climate-change experiment seventeen years before has frozen all of Earth and wiped out all life, except for the survivors on a bullet train–Snowpiercer–  traveling across the globe in a self-contained ecosystem. The  train is class-structured with the poorest in the back suffering like slaves under grotesque conditions and the 1 % in the front with every luxury imaginable, epitomized by spa pools, floor-to-ceiling aquariums, and sushi bars.  Curtis (Chris Evans from “Captain America”), a passenger who is in the back of the train, wants social change and a wise old man named Gilliam (John Hurt) helps him.  Curtis’s  friend, Edgar (Jamie Bell),  and a mother (Octavia Spencer) of a child seized from her also are determined to change their destiny.

The scene-stealer is Tilda Swinton, virtually unrecognizable as the spokesperson for the privileged ruling class.  Every shot she is in perks up this two-hour film that, although carefully crafted and loaded with special effects, has a story that does not arc properly, dragging in plot points until another over-the-top fight scene tries to grab the audience’s attention. Swinton2

“Snowpiercer” is Korean director, Joon-ho Bong’s first English-language film with a combination of A-list Korean actors and exceptional American ones.  I am not the right demographic for this film.  It is a  thriller for the audience who loves “300” (mainly under-30 males) with long fight scenes and special effects that chew up any story or semblance of one.  If you want to see a masterpiece by Bong, rent “Mother”and don’t get on this train.

 

“We Need to Talk About Kevin”–The Bad Seed

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“We Need to Talk About Kevin” is an unforgettable portrait of the baby from hell, and as such this film may not be meant for a lot of viewers.

Kevin comes into the world as a very difficult, “challenging” infant.  The unconditional love between mother–Eva Khatchadourian (played to perfection by Tilda Swinton, a BAFTA nominee for this role) and child (as a teenager by the talented newcomer Ezra Miller) just doesn’t happen.  In the delicate and intricate mother-child bonding requiring a mutuality of response–pick up the crying baby, baby stops crying, mother smiles,  baby smiles –Kevin and his mother struggle in ways horrific and unimagined.

The movie opens with Eva Khatchadourian trying to recover from something the viewer does not know. In an alternating split between past and present action, the flashback and flashforwards  confront the puzzle of Eva’s role as mother and her son’s difficult nature.  Once a successful travel author, she now is employed as a clerk in a travel agency. She lives a solitary life as people who know about her situation openly shun her. The aftermath and consequences of an unknown incident have resulted in an intimidated, damaged woman with no social support.  Her clueless husband, Franklin (John C. Reilly in a small but persuasive part) has consistently sided with their son over his wife, and goes beyond, encouraging Kevin’s typical (?) boy behavior.

The troubled relationship between Kevin and Eva continues until the climax near the end of the film.  Although the first half with frequent flash backs and forwards leaves the viewer unsure of where we are being taken, it all fits in at the end. Questions of parental responsibility, the newborn baby who becomes the child from hell, the culpability of the relationship, and the unraveling of human bonds all come into question in this  unusual and provocative film.  A standout for courage and difficult subject matter!

[Available on Netflix]