The Snowpiercer moves along strangely

A review by Brenda Daniels

I’m always attracted to futuristic films, especially if they’re about a world changed by drastic weather conditions. Snowpiercer is one such example. But this film is more about man’s meddling in both the natural and the social worlds, than it is about earth’s imagined future.

The result is a strange, unsettling film, with surprising violence and oddly paced action.

To counteract the effects of global warming, in Snowpiercer, humans attempt to cool the atmosphere. Their efforts fail, however, and an ice age ensues. The only human survivors live on a high-speed, constantly moving train called the Snowpiercer. Just as the frozen landscape it travels through is a by-product of human engineering, so the social conditions on the train are carefully controlled by humans. Their product is an unequal class system.

The action begins when the low lifes at one end of the train rebel against their squalid living conditions and fight their way to the front. Each coach they move through features a surrealistically different “landscape”.

The fighting is violent and moves through the coaches in a staccato manner that echoes the breaks in the carriages, pausing too long in each one rather than flowing at an even pace.

Most intriguing is the story’s underlying reference to, and questioning of, an ostensibly Judeo-Christian perspective on life. The train, which circumnavigates the earth once a year, is called an ark. Its leader, Wilford, is referred to in mysterious, divine terms. And Wilford determines the destiny of the train’s passengers in a pre-ordained manner that unjustly benefits some while sacrificing others.

At the film’s conclusion we are left wondering if, just as the train moves inexorably round the earth, the cycle of man’s unsavoury influence on earth will simply continue.

Snowpiercer opens at Ster Kinekor theatres in South Africa on 17 October.

Tilda Swinton stars in Snowpiercer. Photo: Creative Commons (Flickr.com)

Tilda Swinton stars in Snowpiercer. Photo: Creative Commons (Flickr.com)

The Hunt is excellently hard-hitting

A review by Brenda Daniels

The Hunt is a 2013 Danish film that was initially screened in South Africa in May 2014 as part of the European Film Festival at Cinema Nouveau. It won a number of awards at the Cannes Film Festival and others, including best actor for Mads Mikkelsen who stars as Lucas in this hard-hitting movie.

Lucas is a kindergarten teacher in a small town in Denmark. He is loved by the little ones and is seen having lots of fun with them. In his private life Lucas enjoys fun of a more raucous kind with a group of men, all of whom have clearly been friends for a long time. Swimming naked in Denmark’s freezing climate and hunting deer are among the group’s activities.

Lucas is also a divorcee with a teenage son, Marcus (Lasse Fogelstrom), whom he longs to see. His longings are rewarded by Marcus’ eventual wish to come and live with his dad.

Before this happy reunion can come to pass, however, things change dramatically for Lucas. Through a series of simply portrayed events Lucas finds himself accused of child molestation. And it is here that we see the film’s title “The Hunt” coming sharply into focus. From colleagues, to parents, townsmen to friends, most of the people in this small town turn on Lucas with a violence that is hard to watch. Police and the law appear only as a vague accusatory presence.

It is the personal betrayal, the stumbling, scuffling attacks on this man’s dignity by people he knows that are so deeply hurtful, and harsher than any “action” film I’ve seen. A line spoken by Lucas’ best friend goes something like this: “There’s evil all around us but if we stay together we keep the evil out.” The evil without (us) or the evil within (us), I wonder.

The Hunt is an excellent and deeply disturbing portrayal of cruelty and human nature. As intense as it is to watch I do highly recommend it. It opens at Cinema Nouveau Theatres in South Africa on 3 October.

Mads Mikkelsen plays the lead role in The Hunt

Mads Mikkelsen plays the lead role in The Hunt. Photo: Supplied by Ster Kinekor

Captain America: The Winter Soldier reminicent and too violent

A review by Brenda Daniels

Captain America faces many foes in this Marvel production of the superhero which is due for release in South Africa this week. The enemies come in several guises and our hero has a hard time telling friend from foe.

Played by handsome Chris Evans, Steve Rogers is, however, able to trust Natasha (a slim, red-headed Scarlett Johansson) and an out-of-shape Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Together they fight the mysterious Winter Soldier, the brains behind this super soldier, and ultimately the threat to freedom itself.

An exciting car chase featuring a battle-scarred Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury is good to watch. Some giant machines designed for world-domination, lots of fight scenes and a good versus evil plot make for entertaining viewing – particularly in IMAX 3D.

But the fighting seemed over the top to me and too violent, even for a superhero. And the Captain’s bemoaning of the good old days at the beginning of the film got a bit tiresome. For our hero the “good old days” meant the freedom that America espoused. It was this that he felt ultimately called to defend; a good bit of “democracy” propaganda I liked least of all.

The film concludes satisfyingly open ended so fans can look forward to a sequel.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens at Ster Kinekor Theatres in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX on Friday 28 March. It carries an age restriction of PG13.

Chris Evans on set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans on set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

 

Scarlett Johansson at a press release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Scarlett Johansson at a press release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier