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All-Aboard the Metaphysical: Snowpiercer Chugs Toward Human Continuity

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Now playing via a groundbreaking new distribution method @, as well as in the Philadelphia vicinity, is a sublime new film. If Ayn Rand’s “John Galt” character of "Atlas Shrugged" were to not so much create a utopia of the productive and competent, but instead save humanity from environmental destruction (which, counter-intuitively, Rand claimed was anti-industrialist fiction), and then impose the “natural” class system interpreted as extant in the universe, the graphic novel upon which Bong Joon-ho’s exquisite “Snowpiercer” is based might have been directly inspired. A Galtian character, channeled with eerie flawlessness by Ed Harris, lies at the core of “Snowpiercer”, a completely novel and revelatory work of science fiction which nonetheless, as this reviewer indicates, mirrors tropes from “Titanic”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “Runaway Train”, not to mention “Wanted” and “Battlestar Galactica”, mixing and re-blending themes old and new for something very original. There also lies a strange homage to Rand’s mysterious engineer at the heart of aforementioned opus, with a sort of sinister version of John Galt at the Darwinian helm of humanity’s last survivors.

Themes of environmental destruction, attempts at environmental redemption and human population control catapult the film from science fiction exploration to an imaginal, science-fictional masterpiece. Joon-ho, a South Korean filmmaker, jettisons to the forefront of the most talented and passionate filmmakers working today. Not since the work of Ang Lee have I sensed, in any director, as much intelligence, ability, and cross-cultural translation that not only works but excels.

The special effects are dazzling, while the cinematography, acting, sets and production values are top-notch. There is a seamless wiring in each scene’s connectivity to each train car manifesting the narrative, encapsulating this screenplay. Every plot device subtly insinuated, every story line seemingly broken, is followed up and tied through like an intricate nano-surgery. Everything flows to the conclusion with precise, premeditated perfection.

One might predict many Oscar-nominations for this film, despite it being released in July. Best Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography and perhaps even Picture. Not to mention, perhaps, a long-overdue Oscar win for John Hurt, who delivers a small yet indelible performance that brilliantly capstones an extraordinary, incandescent career.