Snowpiercer: “Sorry Mom, the Mob has spoken!”

Springpiercer Poster (flat)

This month, the Flim Springfield film crickets are recasting our first contemporary movie, SNOWPIERCER!, the inspiring story of one man’s journey up forbidding Widow’s Peak Mountain to rescue his best friend … Oh wait, its actually a dark journey through brutal oppression to resistance. An allegory for the social order as it is today.

There’s other interests my fellow casting agent and I share besides The Simpsons, and one of them is a dark fascination for the end of the world. In fact, Snowpiercer was the movie that got our minds working overtime on the Flim Springfield recasting idea.

MARGE VS. THE MONORAIL (S4, Ep12) is the iconic Simpsons episode. It’s a pitch-perfect story that blends dystopia cliches, The Music Man, and small town politics in equal measure, written by one of the premier comic talents in contemporary television, Conan O’Brien for nonstop laughs.

Of course, it also has that show stopping song originally performed with perfection by Phil Hartman:

Joon-ho Bong’s South Korean action flick Snowpiercer has quite a few key elements in common with Marge VS the Monorail. There’s the unstoppable train, dilapidated infrastructure, corrupt leadership and selfish opportunists who’d kill for wealth, even dependence on unhealthy foods. And everyone wants to stop the train. They’re almost the same story, except they aren’t. Where Snowpiercer starts off with environmental calamity, the Springfield Monorail’s problems are only exacerbated by solar power.

Marge Vs. The Monorail’s overall message is that greed makes people stupid–or stupid people stupider. As long as they’re placated with bribes, easy work, or the chance to look good in front of the camera, they’ll fall for an obvious con job. Even the Lisa (“Springfield’s answer to the question no one asked”) is taken in by flim-flam artist Lyle Lanley. People want to be comfortable, and barring that they’ll settle for the illusion of safety through consistency. It isn’t hard to imagine a Springfield that winds up something like the world in Snowpiercer–if not for shoddy construction, and a last minute ‘hail Mary’ save by the town’s premier idiot.

Snowpiercer is an South Korean production, based on a French graphic novel, staring Captain America (Chris Evans). This international mix of influences creates a movie that riskily reaches higher than I expected from it. There’s a mise-en-scène and quirks of direction that give it a very distinct feel not found in Hollywood movies–something that upends expectations and kept surprising me throughout.

There’s obvious social/religious/political overtone that drives the plot, which I might blindly see as a America-only problem, but Snowpiercer makes clear is a worldwide plight that it expresses through excellent use of a cast that pointedly features non-white non-male actors in prominent rolls. Significantly, at the story’s end, the lead villain turns out to be just as white/male as the hero. It doesn’t feel like an accident of casting, Evans and Ed Harris could be the same person from different points in their life/career in fact. Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar for her pitch-black-comic performance, and the entire cast is excellent, even though they’re more ‘props’ for discussion than fully realized characters, they do amazing work making each role engaging and believable.

Snowpiercer has a clever set of conditions frantically pushing the story forward, and staging its message: The movie takes place on a train that is a completely closed ecosystem, it is The World. Each train-car serves very specific function: garden, water purification, school, the overstuffed trailer where the poor live, etc… Every door opens onto a new diorama exhibiting different classes of people living their lives: what they’re given, what they’re denied, and how they’re taught to accept their place in the structure is laid out set-piece by set-piece in a way that logically builds from the first scene to the last. Characters give speeches without a trace of being self-aware–horrible little life lessons–as the mob make their way from back to front, that lay out the problems of this world. Snowpiercer the movie knows we’re all trapped in the same place by the thoughts we’re taught, even though most of its passengers don’t.

As the front of the train draws ever closer, there are fewer and fewer people from the back who’ve survived the grind. The movie ends with a final climactic FX laden disaster that is a pretty gutsy no-punches-pulled decision, admitting that the only way to break out of the system is to destroy it no matter the cost.

Ach! Keep off Grass

Groundskeeper Willie as Curtis (Chris Evans)
Willie is basically the toughest, most take-charge guy in Springfield. If anyone were going to barrel through a train in armed revolt, it’d be him.

Apu as Namgoong

Apu as Namgoong (Kang-ho Song)
We could totally see Apu in the role as the train’s imprisoned security expert. Don’t forget, Apu’s background in computer science.

Ach! Keep off Grass

Pahusacheta Nahasapeemapetilon as Yona (Ah-sung Ko)
Not a perfect match, but if children really are the future and you are looking for young women of color in Springfield, there only have so many options.

Apu's mom as Tanya

Apu’s mom as Tanya (Octavia Spencer)
She may be a lot older than Tanya, but you know Apu’s mom always gets her way and would totally fight through train cars full of people if they were standing between her and her son.

Won't somebody PLEASE think of me! I mean, the children!

Helen Lovejoy as Mason (Tilda Swinton)
Oscar winner for Most Punchable Face.

oh you better believe that's a paddlin!

Jasper as Gilliam (John Hurt)
Springfield’s one-legged, tin confiscating, retired Reverend has welcomed freezing temperatures to get what he wants before.

You know those guitars that are like...double guitars?

Otto Mann as Paul (Paul Lazar)
I couldn’t watch the scene with Paul, the sole employee of the protein block factory, without thinking of perpetually stoned and out-of-it bus driver Otto. Whether it’s his daily madcap race to the elementary school or siphoning gas from another school’s bus, he seems equally able to accept and complete any task given to him without thinking about it too much.

I love you, Krusty.

Krusty and Sideshow Mel as Gerald and Doris (Robert Russell and Magda Weigertová)
First and second chair violinists for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Gerald was forced to abandon his wife Doris in order to play the violin for the amusement of the wealthy passengers. Like Krusty, whose greed and selfishness far outweigh his moments of generosity, when we next see Gerald, he’s looking damn great and seems to have forgotten all about his wife and the other rear-car passengers.

Lewis

Lewis as Timothy (Marcanthonee Jon Reis) Timothy has the unfortunate luck to be young and small. If he were a student at Springfield Elementary, he’d probably feel lucky to blend in with the rest of the undereducated rabble.

dumb-kid

Ralph Wiggim as Boy (Griffin Seymour). Definitive proof that privilege doesn’t equal intelligence. A statement so obvious either one of them could have made it.

Herman as Andrew

Herman as Andrew (Ewen Bremner)
Half the arms, twice the rage!

And just to show you that we are serious: you have twelve hours.

Fat Tony as Franco the Elder (Vlad Ivanov)
Springfield’s #1 enforcer. Is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family? Always loyal to his Don, in this case, Tony would say yes.

If I had a girlfriend, she'd kill me.

Squeaky Voiced Teen as Edgar (Jamie Bell)
Not counting Milhouse, the most disposable kid in all of Springfield must be this sadsack , who fits perfectly–which is to say uselessly–here. He’s needy, nerdy, and quickly forgotten.

Look, lady, if I was you, I would just leap into the air as I am preparing to do.

Yakuza Assassin as Grey (Luke Pasqualino)
You just know he’s going to do something awesome–and he does.

Ralph, Jesus did not have wheels.

Ms. Albright as Teacher (Alison Pill)
While Springfield’s Sunday School teacher Ms. Albright is a little more terrified, and Snowpiercer’s teacher is somewhat more manic, they each have this very sweet aura about them. I’d say Ms. Albright is closer than either Ms. Hoover or Ms. Krabappel to that intersection of angelic and likely to whip out a firearm.

one of those Egg Council creeps got to you too, huh?

Egg Advisory Council Spy as Egg-Head (Tómas Lemarquis)
Eggs have gotten a bad rap lately, you know? (And they deserve it!)

Mr. Burns as Wilford (Ed Harris) A self-obsessed captains of industry, with a private caboose, and a scale model train that runs through his mansion. (We considered Rev. Lovejoy for this role, but he's too apathetic to be megalomaniacal.)

Mr. Burns as Wilford (Ed Harris)
A self-obsessed captains of industry, with a private caboose, and a scale model train that runs through his mansion. (We considered Rev. Lovejoy for this role, but he’s too apathetic to be megalomaniacal.)

Smithers, when you look at me with those puppy-dog eyes...

Waylon Smithers as Claude (Emma Levie)
Every megalomaniac needs his or her loyal and adoring toady, someone who will do whatever is needed, no matter how unethical.

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One Response to Snowpiercer: “Sorry Mom, the Mob has spoken!”

  1. Pingback: Reading Digest: Cranky with the Media Edition | Dead Homer Society

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