“SNOWPIERCER” My rating: B (Opens July 2 at the Tivoli, Screenland Armour and Leawood)
126 minutes | MPAA rating: R
Allegorical sci-fi doesn’t get much more headsmackingly ambitious than “Snowpiercer,” a claustrophobic epic from Korean director Joon-ho Bong.
Joon-ho got a toehold in the American market with “The Host,” a superlative monster movie that mixed genuine thrills with offbeat humor. He followed that up by going in exactly the opposite direction with “Mother,” which follows the trials of an unsophisticated Korean woman whose only son is accused of murder.
“Snowpiercer,” though, is his most ambitious movie to date, one filled with big-name actors (Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris, for instance, take small but pivotal roles) and overflowing with political and social satire. It’s as if “Das Boot” were mated with Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.”
In the near future the world’s great powers try to deal with global warming by shooting into the atmosphere rockets filled with some newfangled chemical that’s supposed to lower Earth’s temperature. It works all too well, plunging the planet into a new Ice Age that kills just about everything.
But 1,000 lucky — or maybe not so lucky — survivors have found shelter in an ultra high-tech, mile-long train that runs on nuclear energy and for the last 18 years has been roaring unceasingly on a non-stop circuit around the Earth.
We’re first introduced to this brave new world at the back end of the train, where the unwashed proletariat squirm in an existence only a dozen feet wide and hundreds of yards long. it’s like the world’s biggest submarine.
These poor bastards survive on gelatinous protein bars passed out by black-armored riot police who several times each day line everyone up for head counts. Now and then these thugs snatch young children and take them to the front of the train for purposes too unpleasant to contemplate.