July 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Snowpiercer' barrels through an icy apocalyptic nightmare

Tilda Swinton lords over the underclass in 'Snowpiercer.' (Weinstein Co.)

“Snowpiercer” rocks in a foreign film post-apocalyptic nutso way that’s darkly comic, thrilling, violent and repeatedly mind-boggling.

Which is to be expected, coming from Korean director Bong Joon-ho, the fearless visionary behind 2006’s monster flick “The Host.” How respected is this guy? Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris all signed on for this film. How talented is he? The movie cost $40 million to make and it has more invention and action than most American films made for four times that amount.

In the near future, as global warming becomes ever more threatening, mankind decides to cool down the atmosphere by seeding the skies with a chemical. But, oops, that chemical causes an ice age and life is over.

Except for those few hundred who boarded a super train invented by Wilford (Harris), which now zips past frozen landscapes endlessly. The train’s society is a caste system — those in the forward cars live in luxury, those in the back barely survive in squalor.

These unfortunates are lorded over by a functionary named Mason (Swinton in wonderfully twisted androgynous form). What Mason doesn’t know is a revolution is brewing under the leadership of Curtis (Evans).

Once Curtis makes his move, the film becomes a war in thin corridors as the fight progresses from moving car to car, past a food production car, to a water station, to a sparkling classroom filled with indoctrinated rich kids, to a disco car and so on. Bloody battles break out, grim back stories come to light, characters fall, but Curtis presses forward.

As violent as it is, “Snowpiercer” avoids explicit gore, and the film ends with some surprising, dark rationales that strike home. This is brilliant, bizarre, fearless filmmaking.

'Snowpiercer'

GRADE: B+

Rated R for violence, language and drug content

Running time: 126 minutes

tlong@detroitnews.com
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