Ice Age Cometh
By Adam Sturrock
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writer: Kelly Masterson, Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie bell, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Tilda Swindon, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Alison Pill, Ed Davis Length: 125mins
Sometimes one must applaud directors when they try to do something really different, even when things aren’t quite right. For one, the ambitious concept of a perpetually moving train storing life’s final inhabitance both provides intrigue and a number of questions in equal measure. Based off the French Graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, South Korean Director brings forth his first English-language film chock-a-block stuffed with many international stars from both the east and western worlds.
It’s 2017, global warming has created a heated toil on the world and they have just come up with a solution to it: blasting a CW7 chemical into the sky in order to bring down the temperature. It worked, kind of. Instead of slowly declining the temperature as the experiment was intended, the world turned into Mr Freeze’s wet dream and became the North Pole. Luckily, a train created by an engineer called Wilford, is the saving grace for many as it can hold many people and withstand the dead chill outside. 17 years later however, a class system has prevailed, with the affluent rich holding the front and the crippled poor squatting at the back in perpetual disease ridden, festering, poverty. With the main food supply looking akin to giant black gummy sweets (with dubious ingredients used), a rag-tag group of rebels lead by Curtis (Evans), Edgar (Bell) and Tanya (Spencer) plan to overthrow Wilford, the driver of the train and install Gilliam (Hurt), a triple amputee victim and quasi-leader of the back as the replacement. To help them through the many carriages, Curtis enlists a South Korean engineer called Namgoong Minsu (Song) and his daughter, Yona (Go) by bribing them with drugs to open the locked doors.
Facing up against them is the camp, headmaster-esque, Mason (Swindon), who gleefully takes her pantomime role with fervent determination. Comparing the class system to placing a boot on one’s head is one of Mason’s mantras of control over the rebels and does so with an awkward strut. She is by far the most entertaining character of the film due to her over the top caricature of the dictator.
The real star of the film is the train itself. While the exterior is basic CGI, the interior design is fantastic, packing in as many ideas as possible. Inside the train you will see locations such as slums, schools, pools, drug dens, clubs and aquariums; Bong really pushes the limits of his ideas to really work within the train.
The main problem with the film is that however strongly it stamps its foot down on a political message (Anarchy vs Capitalism), there are many plot holes in the script from the off. It seems as if post-production has trimmed down a lot of crucial scenes as it often has inconsistent pacing. One scene in particular involves a shootout down a hill from opposite carriages: the time it takes for Mason’s assassins to catch up with Curtis and Co seems far quicker than the time it took the rebels to get near the front of the train. The layout of the train seems odd as well: while it makes sense to place the upper echelon at the tip of the train, the officials will have to walk through a drug den near the front and risk getting mobbed in the civilian night club.
While not perfect, this film is another example of the talents of Bong Joon-ho in South Korean film-making. It will easily trample over the cookie cutter action films that are coming out this summer as a great film in its genre and it doesn’t seem scared to show off how different it is.