Much like the train we inhabit for Bong Joon-Ho’s English language directorial debut, the direction in which “Snowpiercer” travels is determined, but at its core, the journey is one that has no control. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that the trip isn’t one hell of a ride. Brilliantly choreographed and unrelenting action highlights this resplendent visual feast that has the brains to match, for the most part. With brutal violence and an array of contrasting, stimulating colours, one can’t help but push the chaos and in-your-face obviousness of “Snowpiercer” to the back burner and just enjoy the trek.
Bong Joon-Ho has been and continues to be a filmmaker whom I admire and look to for inspiration. The director of numerous triumphs such as true-crime thriller “Memories of Murder,” modern monster masterpiece “The Host,” and psychological drama “Mother.” Bong Joon-Ho finally makes his much anticipated debut in English language cinema with “Snowpiercer,” much like his South Korean counterpart Chan Wook-Park did in 2013 with “Stoker.” This latest offering from Bong Joon-Ho features an all-star cast comprised of newcomers and veterans to Ho’s brand of film. Chris Evans, Kang-Ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, and John Hurt lead the way.
In the not too distant future, humankind unleashes what is believed to be a chemical remedy to global warming into the atmosphere. When this experiment backfires and sends our planet into an unliveable state, the few who remain seek refuge on the ‘Snowpiercer.’ A train powered by a perpetual motion engine that circles the globe once every year. Designed by the prophetic Wilford, this train is the last livable place on Earth, running on the same, worldwide track for eternity.
On board the train, what remains of our population has descended in to madness and chaos. The rich, privileged first class passengers live in luxury and comfort at the front of the train, while the rest find home at the tail where food and space is sparse. In order to obtain better living conditions and equality, the tail section revolts in an attempt to take over the engine and overthrow the current status in which the train functions.
Taking into account that “Snowpiercer” was an adaptation, the original format being a graphic novel. A lot of the film’s blatant depiction of its themes and cartoonish violence and characters is understandable. That being said, at its worst, “Snowpiercer” is a bewildering, over-stuffed allegory that really suffers from pacing problems. Which is kind of intriguing seeing as originally, Bong Joon-Ho was not given control over the final cut of the film. This changed rather quickly though with the outcry of infuriated fans, much like myself and Bong Joon-Ho once again took full control of his film. However, whether or not this is the truth or simply a gambit I find to be in question, seeing as the film itself feels as if there was a lot more character and story development left on the cutting room floor.
On the flip side, for all of its faults, “Snowpiercer” is a visually entertaining and mentally challenging flick. And apart from a rather lacklustre climax, there isn’t a single moment in its just over two-hour run-time in which boredom will overtake you. While extremely violent, “Snowpiercer” is not excessively gory. It tries and at times succeeds in portraying compassion and brotherhood over war and never sells the evilness of humanity as our undoing.
In his transition, Bong Joon-Ho hasn’t lost any part of his infallible repertoire. If anything, “Snowpiercer” is his most ambitious, technically masterful film to date. As we progress through each car, we are treated to a completely different spectrum of colour ranging from achromatic to vibrant and picturesque. The battle sequences are captured with the utmost intensity and emotion and the characters never take a backseat to this visual spectacle. While undoubtedly not Bong Joon-Ho’s strongest outing, “Snowpiercer” will forever remain an achievement on his impressive resume.
While I was, without question, rather anxiously excited awaiting Bong Joon-Ho’s next project, I didn’t become totally smitten until I heard that Kang-Ho Song would be co-starring. Having lead a few of my personal favourites: “Thirst,” “The Good, The Bad, The Weird,” “Memories of Murder,” and “The Host,” you can see why I was so ripe with anticipation. In “Snowpiercer,” Kang-Ho Song is as charismatic, intimidating, and darkly hilarious as ever. While the script didn’t really allow for his character to outstretch his wings, so to speak, there’s no denying that Song did everything he could to bring this mad, drug-addicted genius to life.
Leading alongside Kang-Ho Song is Captain America himself, Chris Evans. Having previously been featured in such personal favourites as “The Iceman” and “Sunshine,” I was sure that alongside Song, Evans wouldn’t disappoint. Evans continues his ascent to stardom with another heartfelt, invested turn, this time as the leader of the tail section revolution with a dreary, ruthless past. One thing that has become very apparent as of late, and that “Snowpiercer” exemplifies, is that Evans has the ability to deal out heroic, blockbuster performances as well as dramatic stunners.
In supporting roles, Swinton is nothing short of impeccable. Decisively devilish and so easy to hate, Swinton does a phenomenal job as an antagonist who’s death the viewer can easily enjoy. Jamie Bell continues to earn my respect and trust. After surprising performances in “Filth” and the recent “Nymphomaniac,” Bell’s performance in “Snowpiercer” is another I can sink my teeth into. Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, and Ed Harris are also worth noting here. While easily lost in the background, their brief moments on screen are strong enough to dazzle and provoke.
While not the game-changer I was anticipating. “Snowpiercer” is still an impressive feat that all involved can be proud of. It’s as entertaining as any big-budgeted Hollywood action flick and much more rewarding. It’ll turn its fair share of casual filmgoers away with its bleak, disturbing, and violent content, but for those who can stand “Snowpiercer” at its most repugnant, this is one train ride they won’t soon forget.
Snowpiercer: 8 out of 10.
We are now less than two weeks away from when the Toronto International Film Festival tickets go on sale to the public and a mere 16 days away from the start of the actual festivities. On Tuesday morning, another slew of films were announced along with the schedule itself and a long list of celebrities set to attend the festival. I don’t know about you, but the anticipation is overwhelming me. I suppose the nervousness and excitement will dissipate somewhat when I actually know what screenings I will be attending, or it could skyrocket even higher. Either way, this is shaping up to be one hell of a festival!
Now, for those attending, or those simply who’d like to know what’s going on and when, you can find the full schedule by clicking here.
FInal Film List and Programmes:
If you’d like to know what films are playing at the festival, you can click here for the entire list or click the TIFF button in the main menu at the top of this page. You can also find all the programmes offered by the festival by clicking here. Essentially, all films screening at the festival are divided into groups for attendees to better understand what type of genre and themes the film will contain.
Perhaps the most exciting news released Tuesday morning was the endless list of celebrities ready to attend the festival. Amongst the names are Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep, Rebecca Hall, Josh Broliin, Alan RIckman, Clive Owen, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Elizabeth Olsen, Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Tom Hiddleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nicholas Cage, Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, Ben Foster, Anton Yelchin, Liam Neeson, James McAvoy, Nicole Kidman, Felicity Jones, Ed Harris, Spike Jonze, Melissa George, Paul Giamatti, Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah Gadon, Colin Firth, Michael Fassbender, Jesse Eisenberg, Sandra Bullock, Chris Hemsworth, Mila Kunis, Jessica Chastain, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Mia Waikowska, Owen Wilson, Steve McQueen, Jason Reitman, Keanu Reeves, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Ti West, Eli Roth, Daniel Radcliffe, Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Oliva Wilde, Mike Myers, James Franco, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, and Thandie Newton, just to name what I feel to be the most important. And honestly, I couldn’t type any more names. There is a bunch more on the list you can find here. Also, these are just the people confirmed thus far, it is expected that the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, amongst others will be attending.
Jason Reitman’s Live Read:
You can find all the information below, provided by the TIFF website.
The Festival proudly welcomes back Jason Reitman’s Live Read — a unique event in which classic movie scripts are read by contemporary actors. With no rehearsal, the actors come together for a one-take read-through with Reitman narrating stage direction. In 2012, the Festival welcomed Reitman and an all-star cast — including Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Adam Driver, Sarah Gadon and George Stroumboulopoulos — for a live table read of Alan Ball’s screenplay for American Beauty. This year, Reitman is back with a surprise script from a modern classic and a new cast at the Ryerson Theatre on Friday, September 6. Details, including cast and script, for the 2013 Live Read event will be announced in early September.
New this year, audiences are invited to be part of the action with two official Festival selections and two special screenings presented in spectacular IMAX. The two films will be Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” and Keanu Reeves “Man of Tai Chi.”
Next Wave and Manifesto Announced:
You can find another plethora of titles announced by clicking here.
New Galas and Special Presentations:
Metallica Through the Never: Nimród Antal, Canada/USA, World Premiere
Dane DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines) stars as a Metallica roadie dispatched to hell and back in this mind-blowing mash-up of concert film and post-apocalyptic adventure, presented in IMAX 3D.
The Wizard of Oz: Victor Fleming, USA, World Premiere
Experience Judy Garland’s over-the-rainbow adventure in vivid new detail with this IMAX 3D presentation of Victor Fleming’s family classic.
10th Midnight Madness Film Unveiled:
Witching & Bitching:
Fleeing through the impenetrable forests of the Basque countryside after a jewel heist, a hapless band of robbers runs afoul of a coven of witches, in this madcap supernatural spectacle from Spanish genre specialist Alex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus).
Okay then, that’ll do it for the pre-TIFF announcements. The Cinema Monster will be covering the festival in full, providing reviews, news, and Q and A’s as often as possible, make sure to follow our website to keep up with the festival. Also, follow The Cinema Monster on Twitter (@cinema_monster) and Facebook for up-to-the-minute news and posts, not to mention special pictures and videos provided by me from the screenings. Have a great week!
Hello all, just a brief post today outlining the Toronto International Film Festival’s newest additions announced Tuesday afternoon. For reference, you can check out all of The CInema Monster’s post regarding the festival thus far by clicking on TIFF in the main menu at the top of this page. Also, be sure to follow The CInema Monster on Twitter (@cinema_monster) and Facebook for up to the minute festival news, reviews, and Q and A’s. Now, below you’ll find what I feel to be the highlights of this newest batch. If you’d like to check out all the films announced thus far, click here. And in addition to the newly presented galas and special presentations, announced Tuesday afternoon were films in the Contemporary World Cinema, Contemporary World Speakers, Wavelengths, and TIFF Kids categories. You can see the full list of those films here.
Child of God
The latest from actor-turned-filmmaker James Franco is adapted from characteristically tough and violent Cormac McCarthy novel that draws the director’s ambitions into disturbing terrain as it explores the rituals and desperation of the Southern US’s rural poor.
The Face of Love
Five years after the death of her beloved husband Garrett (Ed Harris), Nikki (Annette Bening) meets a man who seems to be his exact double. Ari Posen directs this emotionally thorny drama about how we cope with loss, live in the moment, and ultimately move forward. The film also stars Robin Williams.
Clive Owen and Billy Crudup lead a powerhouse cast — including Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) — as a pair of brothers on opposite sides of the law in Guillaume Canet’s English-language remake of the gritty, 1970s-set crime drama Les liens du sang. The film also stars Zoe Saldana and James Caan.
How I Live Now
Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) stars in this adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s award-winning near-future novel about an American teenager sent to live with her family in Britain on the eve of the Third World War, directed by Kevin McDonald (The Last King of Scotland).
The Wind Rises
This decade-spanning epic from maestro Hayao Miyazaki is his most unique films to date, inspired by the true stories of Jiro Horikoshi, visionary designer of one the most beautiful airplanes in history — the famed Zero fighter — and the poet Tatsuo Hori, whose verses are brought to life by the vivid animation of Studio Ghibli.
As far as being acknowledged for a piece of work goes, an Oscar nomination is easily one of the most difficult to earn. That being said, year after year, there are front runners. The same, familiar faces we, as cinephiles, have come to expect great things from. And every year, as sure as the seasons change, one of these remarkable actors is fortunate enough to capture the gold statue. The talented men below, are not one of these lucky individuals. For whatever reason, the 10 men listed below can’t seem to close the deal. Granted, it isn’t for a lack of effort or quality, neither is it due to some misguided bias. It just so happens that every performance they’ve given that has eventually earned them this elusive recognition, has been trumped by another individual. Now, we may not unanimously agree on the winner yearly, but one thing we can all agree on, is the men listed below, should have some Oscar gold on their shelves.
The way I concluded on how to compile this top 10 is simple. Each actor mentioned in the top 10 has a performance I feel should have earned them an Oscar win. A lot of the men listed have been nominated, some more than once. Nonetheless, have yet to take home the hardware. As for the “still time” and “honourable mentions,” they might not have been nominated previously, but I still feel will win an Oscar in my lifetime.
Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Cillian Murphy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, Michael Shannon.
Johnny Depp, John Travolta, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel, Harrison Ford, Jim Carrey, Ian McKellan, Joaquin Phoenix, Patrick Stewart.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into it!
10: Ed Harris – The Truman Show
A four-time Oscar nominee, Ed Harris just can’t seem to get the respect he deserves or be able to catch a break.
9: Edward Norton – American History X
“Fight Club,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” and “American History X,” Edward Norton has no shortage of great performances under his belt. Now, if he could just get that elusive win, we could all cross him off of our lists.
8: Bill Murray – Lost in Translation
His best chance to win the golden statue may have already passed with the release of “Lost in Translation.” But who knows, maybe he can surprise us once more and finally grab a victory.
7: Tom Cruise – Jerry McGuire
All Cruise craziness aside, he has stared in numerous films that should have garnered him at least one Oscar win, if not more.
6: Sam Rockwell – Moon
Many of you may not agree with this choice. Nonetheless, I feel Sam Rockwell has given the performance of our lifetime in “Moon” and should have been at least recognized for it, in my opinion, he should have been given the Oscar hands down.
5: Samuel L. Jackson – Pulp Fiction
Really? How did Jackson not win an Oscar for his performance in “Pulp Fiction?”
4: Liam Neeson – Schindler’s List
Another no-brainer. Liam Neeson is an outstanding actor, yet has not earned an Oscar.
3: Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
One of the most illustrious actors on this list, Mr. Oldman has only been nominated once. While it should have been more, his performance in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” should have gotten him the win.
2: Brad Pitt – 12 Monkeys
Now we are getting into ridiculousness. Take your pick, Pitt should have multiple Oscar wins, but has yet to receive his first, utterly insane.
1: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Aviator
Arguably one of the best actors to ever grace the big screen. Leonardo DiCaprio has yet to win an Oscar. WIth a plethora of performances that should have gotten him at least one win. We, as cinephiles can only hope he will be recognized for his work sometime in the near future.
Alright, that’ll do it for this week’s top 10, I sincerely hope you all enjoyed it. As always, if you feel I overlooked an actor or listed one that should have excluded from this list, please leave all comments and questions below. Everyone have an outstanding weekend!