Snowpiecer & Under the Skin
Reviewed by Anthony Servante
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho.
Summary: In this sci-fi epic, a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet. The final survivors board the SNOWPIERCER, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine. When cryptic messages incite the passengers to revolt, the train thrusts full-throttle towards disaster.
Review: Part moral fable, part social satire, Snowpiercer has a lot on its mind, and on its plate. As a metaphor, the train represents the 1 percent wealthy folks who live in the front cars, while the impoverished revolutionists make up the 99 percent. The rich eat sushi while the poor eat "protein", a black gooey brick that we find later is made up of something we probably would not want to put in our mouth. The back of the train is led by Gilliam (as in Terry Gilliam, get it?) played by John Hurt; the front is led by Ed Harris (Wilford), designer and engineer of the perpetual train. What makes it perpetual is also a surprise you won't see coming, and even if you do, it's still shocking. Gilliam is too weak to continue to lead the revolt, so he enlists the smart and stoic Curtis (Chris Evans, who is a long way from his Captain American role).
Ultimately, Snowpiercer is an instant classic, a film worthy of multiple viewings, with enough layers in meaning to keep even the nerdiest viewer finding new gems in the dialog or frames. What puzzles me is how did this movie end up in the arthouse circuit. Was it bumped by Transformers? Probably. So, if it passed your local theater, it is now available online and on some cable pay-per-view networks. But, if you can, see this movie on the big screen. Big vistas, big characters, and big story demand a big screen viewing.
Under the Skin (2014)
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Summary: A voluptuous woman of unknown origin combs the highway in search of isolated or forsaken men, luring a succession of lost souls into an otherworldly lair. They are seduced, stripped of their humanity, and never heard from again. Based on the novel by Michael Faber, this film examines human experience from the perspective of an unforgettable heroine who grows too comfortable in her borrowed skin, until she is abducted into humanity with devastating results.
So, film-lovers, this is the movie for you. Forget about the action movie humans versus aliens and simply be swept by the experience of the story frame by frame. Lots of ScarJo nudity, in good taste, more Penthouse than Playboy, but never Hustler. Some great panoramic vistas worthy of Ansel Adams. And for those of you who are up for the occasion, there is a story in there to be found. It may not be my "elements" framework, but it's one of those movies where we can share what we thought it was about afterwards over a cup of coffee.