DIRECTOR: Joon-ho Bong CAST: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Ah-sung Ko, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Emma Levie, Vlad Ivanov, Tómas Lemarquis

RATING – 4.6 out of 10

  • Acting – 7 out of 10
    • I was very excited about this movie, primarily because of the extraordinary cast that was involved. And it’s a good thing they were all a part of it, because I think the film would have been a complete disaster without them. I thought everyone was exceptional in the film, except for Emma Levie; she seemed awkward and uncertain of herself. This is the only thing I’ve seen her in though, so that I may have just been a character choice.
    • Tilda Swinton and Alison Pill gave the best performances, in my opinion.
  • Writing/Dialogue – 4 out of 10
    • Some of the dialogue was odd. Altering present-day idioms to fit a post-apocalyptic world was strange (ie, “in the whole wide train”).
    • It also seemed strange to me that a battle would just stop to celebrate the crossing of a bridge, which marked the start of a new year. The front section is literally hacking the tail section to pieces, when suddenly Mason (Tilda Swinton) enters and announces something, inaudible over the sound of the skirmish; then, the front section stops, and begins counting down in unison. When they hit zero, they all scream, “Happy New Year!” And then the fighting continues. It was just really bizarre, and was one of several things that made me wonder if the film was supposed to be a comedy.
    • Another one of those moments was when Mason took out her teeth. There was no purpose for her to do this. She’s having this serious conversation about how she’ll take them to the front so they can kill Wilford (Ed Harris), as long as they spare her. And then she takes out her teeth and says, “Curtis”. And I couldn’t help but laugh, because it was so absurd.
    • Right after the breakout of the tail car, the tail section wakes up Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) from his sleep imprisonment. Nam engineered the doors on the train, so he is their only hope of making it to the engine; but he doesn’t speak a word of English, and no one else speaks Korean, so they use a translator device. They quickly dispose of the translators, probably because they were too quiet to hear anyway… Yet somehow, in the span of however many hours it takes them to get from the tail of the train to the engine, Curtis (Chris Evans) and Nam suddenly understand each other. Neither of them can speak the other’s language, but they can carry on an in-depth conversation that the other understands? I call shenanigans.
    • It also seemed like the writers were uncertain about how to transition into some things, so they used the clairvoyant Yona (Ah-sung Ko) to do it for them. For example, two little boys are taken from the tail by Claude (Emma Levie) at the beginning of the movie. Part of the plot is to get them back, and Mason tells them a couple of times that Wilford knows where they are. But once Curtis gets in the engine with Wilford, the writers didn’t seem to know how to bring the kids into question. So, they have Yona come in and try to get the matches from Curtis so she can blow up the exit gate. Curtis pushes her away and she falls to the ground. She is suddenly overcome with a vision and starts clawing at the floor. Curtis helps her remove a tile and lo and behold! there’s Tanya’s (Octavia Spencer) son Tim, working on a section of the engine.
  • Diversity – 5 out of 10
    • There was a fairly decent amount of diversity in the film, with at least four characters of a different race in supporting roles and a few strong female characters. However, one of those characters never a spoke a word and another hardly ever spoke unless it was to meekly ask for a drug.
  • Visual Effects – 5 out of 10
    • The exterior shots of the train were really excellent, but the shot of the bugs being ground up and turned into their protein bricks was some of the worst CGI I’ve ever seen.
  • Cinematography & Art Direction – 10 out of 10
    • Here’s the one aspect of the film that was really enrapturing. The cinematography was breathtaking, and I loved that each car was a completely different setting: the classroom, the aquarium, the night club, the sauna. It was ingenious.
  • Musical Score & Sound Editing – 1 out of 10
    • I mentioned before that certain things about the film made me question if it was supposed to be a comedy. Well, the musical score was the biggest perpetrator of this. It was so campy and light-hearted that it ruined moments that should otherwise have been terrible and heartbreaking.
  • Costumes, Makeup, & Hairstyling – 8 out of 10
    • I loved Tilda Switnon’s extravagant costumes. That’s enough to garner an 8, right? Right?
  • Plot/Story – 6 out of 10
    • I really loved the story. Sure, it follows the same format of other dystopian tales, but this one is set on a train. However, I don’t think it was executed as expertly as it could have been.
    • The story unfolds in the middle of the story and there is next to nil in exposition. Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely abhor exposition, because it is so seldom done correctly. Very few writers have successfully incorporated exposition as part of the story rather than as narrative. Even the most expert of actors has difficulty making an expository line sound like natural speech, because it is not natural. The worst kind of exposition is a recap, when the writers divulge something in a scene, cut to another scene (usually an action scene), and cut back and re-divulge the information again. Exposition is, plain-and-simple, evil. But it is a necessary evil.
    • I’m not saying that there needed to be an abundance of exposition in this film, but there needed to at least be more than what we were given. It would have cleared up some of the convoluted confusion
  • Time – 5 out of 10
    • The ending dragged on longer than was necessary.
  • Grandiosity vs. Humility – 3 out of 10
    • Joon-ho Bong tried too hard to make this an abstract and outlandish neo-noir film, like some kind of cross between a Quentin Tarantino movie and Japanese anime.

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