In “Snowpiercer,” classes struggle on a train

After global warming threatens all life on Earth, scientists let loose a cooling agent that relieves global warming so effectively that it freezes everybody to death. The only survivors live on a train that, for unexplained reasons, is hurtling over and over around a worldwide track, like a Lionel train set, only covering all the continents.

Since there’s ice and snow everywhere, the train has a specially created front that can crash through all obstacles. The master and inventor of the perpetual train lives in the engine, while subsequent cars are filled with succeeding levels of privileged people. Our heroes barely survive in the back.

Snowpiercer is a film comic book, or I guess graphic novel, of course. The people in the back are asked to accept their lot and remain peaceful, but they have other ideas. If they are going to improve their situation, they are going to have to fight their way through the incredibly long train. About 120 of the film’s 126 minutes, then, are violent hand-to-hand fight scenes. The filmmaker uses every trick to keep them from getting monotonous, but it doesn’t always work.

A lot of political activists are going to be drawn to this metaphorical tale, as I and my companion were. Whether or not they come away with a clearer understanding of class struggle and what has to be done is undetermined. Chop-sockey fans of movie violence, especially if they don’t care what all the splatter means, are going to love it. There’s also some good acting and interesting character development. Then there are people like my movie buddy, who just like trains.

Even though the film seems to have been made outside the U.S., there’s a Teamster union logo in the final frame.

Movie information:
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Starring Chris Evans, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer
2013, South Korea/Czech Republic/U.S./France
126 minutes, rated R