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Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer

Bong Joon-ho, Snowpiercer, 2013, 35 mm, color and black-and-white, sound, 126 minutes. From left: Curtis (Chris Evans), Mason (Tilda Swinton), Andrew (Ewen Bremner), and Tanya (Octavia Spencer).

WITH CALAMITIES (economic, ecological) in the news almost every day, the “imagination of disaster,” to cite Susan Sontag’s still-influential 1965 essay on science-fiction films, has been showing signs of exhaustion lately—maybe since 2006. That year (pre–global financial crisis, pre-Fukushima, etc.) witnessed the premiere of The Host, Bong Joon-ho’s third, and most successful, feature, a nimble update of the monster movies popular in the 1950s and ’60s that managed to be a potent, scary, and often funny eco-parable. The seeds of Bong’s fifth film, the dystopian epic Snowpiercer, reportedly took root during preproduction for The Host, when the South Korean director discovered the French graphic-novel series Le Transperceniege, which debuted in 1982 (and provides the movie its name). Yet despite some innovative set pieces, Bong’s latest, recalling several other contemporary

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