The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray Book Review

By Oscar Wilde
Pg. 288, Published in 1890
Genre: Drama, Transgression, Fantasy
Grade: A-

Background:

Roughly, this novel can be deemed as a “Transgressional Fiction.” A main character, Dorian Gray, leads a hedonistic life, believing that a life serving senses and beauty is the most ideal one. The storyline focuses much on the topics of sin and art, and this review will analyze how this novel treats these topics and what readers can learn from such perspectives.

Synopsis:

Is sin inseparable part of one’s life? No matter how moral or innocent way of life one seemingly leads, does sin work its way in insidiously to contaminate and destroy our soul? Oscar Wilde would agree. The novel is an intense meditation on morality. Here, As Dorian Gray leads a debauchery life, he is representing the dark side of morality. Once influenced by Lord Henry, who insists that “the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it,” Dorian Gray’s sole purpose in life is to please his senses despite the entailing costs. His sudden, whimsical wish that his portrait drawn by his admirer, Basil Hallward, would physically age instead of himself, comes true, and for the next 18 years, he keeps his youthful appearance while his semblance in the portrait grows old. During those 18 years, he indulges himself in many indecencies (although readers could only glimpse at the specificity of those acts since apparently the press banned a number of erotic references when it was first published), yet he remains pure and pristine outwardly. His callous attitude toward and apathetic reception of others slowly taint his soul. One’s philosophy on life has huge impact on his moral conscious, as can be seen from Dorian’s life. Every now and then, Dorian visits the attic where he has hidden his portrait and takes a look at it. The portrait looks more horrific and sinister with the signs of aging every time he looks at it. His sin is coming alive and reveals itself in the portrait.

Allegorical Reading:

 

In this book, Oscar Wilde seems to suggest that we human beings are all sinners since no one is immune to aging of one’s physical forms. We age because we sin. Sin is one of inextricable condition of human being’s life. As written in the introduction to the novel, “it portrays the author’s internal battles and arrives at the disturbing possibility that ‘Ugliness is the only reality.’”

Then, can we, readers, say that Dorian Gray’s sin’s are unnatural and abomination? Can we not conclude that his sin is just different kind of sin from all the sins that human beings commit? Is his sin greater in intensity than the sins committed by others? If ugliness is the only reality, then he is merely candid with himself and is living in a true reality whereas everyone else only swims in the pool of illusions.

Many religion advocates claim that God exists because everyone needs redemption. And we need to attain it through Him. If everyone needs redemption, then it logically follows that everyone sins. Although people may have rebuked Wilde’s only novel due to the immorality portrayed and done by Dorian Gray, they have done so because they were afraid to look at their own ugliness through the reflection cast by this very novel. Sin is a natural rebellion we all harbor, however unknowably, deep in our heart. Lucifer and Dorian Gray, they were just more honest with what their hearts were telling them.

The theme of art, although seems peripheral to the theme of sin, is indeed an important facet that makes up the novel. The artist who paints the portrait of Dorian Gray poured his soul in this very art. This metaphor becomes reality and the portrait embodies the soul of Dorian Gray. In addition, Dorian Gray is hugely influenced by the book given by Lord Henry Wotten, he who is the embodiment of extremely liberal-minded and paradox loving friend of Dorian’s. The latter fact is autobiographical in context as Wilde confesses in his other essays. Art affects lives profoundly. Art changes lives. Art plants irreversible mindset deep inside one’s heart. Art has soul of its own, or the soul of its subject.

Then, was Oscar Wilde honest when he claimed in the preface that ‘All art is quite useless”? Anything that has capacity to change one’s philosophy cannot be labeled ‘useless’. The very contrast that’s shown in the story of the book is that Dorian Gray could not have lived such decadent life if it weren’t for his portrait drawn by his friend. Art, here, gave him a new life. Art, when applied, becomes indispensable aspects of one’s life. Scholars argue that the saying, “All art is quite useless,” was written after many vituperative remarks with which Wilde was condemned from his critics. It was his defense; yet his novels immediately rejects such claim through the inordinate life story of Dorian Gray.

Like many great novels, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a representation of a certain movement at a specific time. The movement was called ‘Aesthetic Movement,” and the book remains as a symbol of its era, just as Albert Camus’s book The Strangers remains the representation of existentialism in the 50s. Interestingly, the book is inundated with paradoxes, most of which were conveyed by Lord Henry Wotten, and its purpose is worth-noting. Dialectic has been a method for a couple millennia to get at the truth, and it seems like Wilde is purportedly using paradoxes to give us a chance to see other side by our commonly dull perspective. He is suggesting that morality is not easily defined, that the difference between virtue and vice is paper-thin.

This book is riveting and memorable, full of paradoxes and

The Dorian Gray movie poster

deep insights and commentaries on life. I recommend this book to anyone bored by mediocrity of general mass and also to those who would like to see liberal-mindedness in its extreme. Although the main character leads a decadent life, because of censorship at the times, the passages do not contain explicit sexual scenes or drug usage. Approximately four movie adaptations on this novel have been made so far, the last one of which stars Colin Firth.

 

Memorable Quotes:

Some quotes here are followed by my own interpretation:

“We shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.” -God’s gifts are not a blessing but rather a curse-

“It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue.” -People who use their intelligence and rhetoric for the purpose of arguing don’t look smart; instead they look lost-

“Those who are faithful know only the trivial side of love: it is the faithless who know love’s tragedies.” -It seems like the phrase is boasting the wonders and greatness of unfaithfulness, focusing on its dramatic elements-

“And Beauty is a form of Genius–is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation.” -We generally think that concept of beauty as greatness is fleeting, that beauty is inferior virtue from other types of virtues; yet Lord Henry claims that beauty resides in the zenith among all virtues. 

“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”

“‘Always’ is a dreadful word. It makes me shudder when I hear it. Women are so fond of using it. They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever. It is a meaningless word too. The only difference between a caprice & a life-long passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”

“Sin is the only real color-element left in modern life.”

“One should absorb the color of life, but one should never remember its details. Details are always vulgar.”

“Is insincerity such a terrible thing? I think not. It is merely a method by which we can multiply our personalities.

“To define is to limit.”

“Every effect that one produces gives on an enemy. To be popular, one must be a mediocrity.”

“Their strong passions must either bruise or bend. They either slay the man or themselves die. Shallow sorrows and shallow loves live on.”

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Ape

Dawn of the Planet of the Ape

Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Gary Oldman, Andy Serkis, Keri Russell
Production Year: 2014
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalypse
Grade: B-

 

Dawn_of_the_Planet_of_the_ApesBackground:

The previous installment, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which came out in the year 2011, is a better ‘ape-movie’ than the recent sequel, “Dawn of the Planet of the Ape.” I watched the first installment a few hours before my daughter was born. It is amazing how when a certain insignificant event is couple with a monumental one, both stay firmly with you. Three years ago, I went to the theater with my friends around 10 pm, and came back home around 1am. An hour later, my wife felt pain, we went to the hospital, and my daughter was born. Setting this impeccable timing aside, I liked the first installment; it was smart, it was ethically provoking. The movie aptly portrayed the grim aftermath when we blindly chase scientific progress and ignore the order of grand scheme of nature. The sequel had an entirely different themes and messages with greater effort on visual eye candies.

Synopsis:

dawn-planet-apesThe movie picks up the story 10 years after the plot ended in the first installment. Most of human race has been wiped out due to the simian flu (apocalypse-movie again!!), and a few that linger on are living in a rut somewhere in San Francisco. Nearby, the apes themselves started a faux-pas civilization on a mountain, with Caesar as a leader, leading a rather traditional tribal life. Apes assumed no homo sapiens was left alive, thus comes the alarm when a human stumbles upon their territories. Humans, in order to sustain a less degenerate lifestyle, need to fix the dam located within the ape territories. Caesar, not wanting a war with human race, grants the access. Of course, the second-in-command ape, Koba, doesn’t like Caesar’s leniency toward humans. Koba still harbors unrelenting resentment toward them. Their disagreement inflates until one takes a decisive action and starts a war with humans. In the movie, both external and internal wars by apes interplay, and human beings are supplementary characters whose presences merely get in the way of ape actions. The movie ends with a conspicuous suggestion of the third installment (It will definitely come).

Allegorical Viewing:

Watching the trailer, I thought the movie would focus majorly on a war between apes and humans. However, the conflict within the ape community has grander message. The movie impelled me to think of Mel Gilson’s movie “Apocalypto.” In it, the ending foretells the imminent demise of the Mayan civilization when the ships from European nations advance toward the land. However, the end is actually foreshadowed 10 minutes into the movie, when different tribes within the Mayan Civilization fight amongst themselves, sacrificing one another to gods by gorging out the still-thumping heart, selling women as slaves.

The internal conflict calls for the external invasion.

We humans often blame outside factors for misgivings, especially when it comes to a nation. The movie implies that the real trouble, the trouble that has the biggest potential to bring chaos, always begins within, not without.

Evaluation:

dawn-planet-apes (1)The grade B- might have been biased because I don’t (characteristically) like actions movies, especially when the screens cascade with C.G.I. graphics. I know it’s presumptuous of me but I don’t watch the likes of “Transformers” and Marvel-hero movies because they seem to strictly align themselves with Hollywood standard of a ‘commercial movie’, and are less keen on human emotional impacts, focusing disproportionately on wow-factors. The biggest flaw of this movie seems to be the lack of human character development. Writing this review so far, I realize I haven’t talked at all about human characters. Gary Oldman, one of the greatest actors, is utterly insignificant as a leader of the human race. He quips and yells here and there, except this one short scene where he gets emotional looking at the photo of his dead family, he seems devoid of any personalities. The apes have greater power to evoke empathy.

The graphics are fantastic, not just battle scenes but also the subtle changes in facial expression and gestures among apes. The movie could have been made better by giving an equal attention to both ape and human race, delineating the differences and similarities between them.

Recommended for:

People who love animals, who love apocalyptic themes, who want to witness the suffering of the humans, who like cool fighting scenes (especially inter-species battle).

Mogwai

Mogwai Review

Venue: El Rey Theater in Los Angeles
Date: April 17, 2014
Price: $35
Genre: Post Rock, Instrumental Rock
Grade: A

Setlist:

  1. Heard about you last night
  2. Friend of the night
  3. Take me somewhere nice
  4. I’m Jim Morrison, I’m dead
  5. Master Card
  6. Ithica 27
  7. Ex-Cowboy
  8. Werewolf
  9. Deesh
  10. Remurdered
  11. Mexican Grandprix
  12. Mogwai fear Satan
  13. The lord is out of control
  14. Rano Pano
  15. Batcat

Background:

More than a decade ago, My friend and I drove 5 hours to see this band in Las Vegas (The band didn’t set Los Angeles as a tour destination at the time), and experienced something that changed my entire outlook, philosophy, and taste in music. I was either 18,19, or 20 (I know this because my friend and I were able to enter a strip club but were not able to gamble). I’m 32 now. The first time I saw Mogwai live was at least more than a dozen years ago. I’m not sure what prompted us to venture that far to see a band that we ‘merely’ liked, but looking back, I think it was a calling of some divine kind (Muse doing his job), and since then, post-rock has dominated my musical taste.

Throughout my 20s, I went to many many concerts, not discriminating much between the genres — at least within rock music — and I loved many bands but also dismiss  a number of them as time passed by. Mogwai has stayed on top of my favorite band list for as long as I can remember, and their lives gigs, when they happen here in Los Angeles or thereabout, are the concerts I would never miss unless there is a death in the family. This years marks 19th year since the band’s inception, and their 8th album, Rave Album, came out earlier this year. Right before this new album came out, they had done a new project: they created a OST for French Drama series Les Revenants (The Returned), which is one of the best OST music. Beautiful, atmospheric, and dynamic.

It is extremely difficult to describe the Mogwai’s live experience, and I guess the same can be said with many other bands. The thing was post-rock bands like Mogwai is that they use this sonic effect called ‘white noise,’ laying it behind their own orchestration, and no one can imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by that sound except to actual stand amidst of it. You get high as you enter a 4th-dimensional plane; the world becomes bereft of everything except you, the other people in the venue, the band on the stage, and the sound, the exploding, deafening sound. It’s like a rapture of some kind.

Many other post-rock bands that came after Mogwai grant much homage to the band, but in my opinion, no band can come even close to the eclectic and dynamic nature of their music. Over 90% of their music is instrumental, yet those few songs with lyrics are sublime with harrowingly sorrowful melodies. For other songs without lyrics, the notes soars and tears through the space with the multi-layered distortion backed with supreme white noice. In this post, I’ve posted one song with lyrics (Take me somewhere nice) and one without (You don’t know Jesus) at the bottom. Feel free to listen and judge for yourself.

mogwai2The venue, El Rey Theater, is cozy, with capacity around 770 and a balcony and multi-leveled ground that facilitates the unblocked viewing. Mogwai played about half the songs from their new album and the other half from their past favorites including Ithica 27-9, Ex-Cowboy, Mexican Grandprix, and Mogwai Fear Satan. This one song called Take Me Somewhere Nice (posted below) is included in their third album, which came out 15 years ago, and I never listened to this song live despite my dear wish for it every time I went to their concerts for the past decade. This time, they did play it. They had a session violin player, and the music was beautiful. Mogwai Fear Satan and Batcat were as loud as ever; our ear can barely endure such high decibels -indeed many mogwai fans wear ear-plugs during their live gig and I also highly recommend it for the first timers -, and their new single Remurdered and my favorite from their last album, Mexican Grand Prix sounded as if they were the new kinds of post-rock, the sound of the guitars strongly backed by the synths. This Mogwai concert was one of the best Mogwai concert I’ve been to since they played so many of my favorites from the past albums.

Anyone who loves rock music concert should definitely check out some of the post-rock bands (my recommendation: Mono (from Japan), Tokyo Shoegazer (also from Japan), Explosions in the Sky, God Speedyou Black Emperor, etc) and attend their concert to experience this white-noise saturated space. It’s like experiencing a drug-induced state, only that it’s legal and better. Dearly hoping that Mogwai will come to Los Angeles soon in the future, I conclude this brief review (or personal anecdote more likely).

Take me somewhere nice

You don’t know Jesus

Remurdered Live

 

August: Osage County

August: Osage County Review

Written by Tracy Letts
Location: James BridgesTheater at UCLA
Original Production Year: 2007
Attended on: July 12, 2014
Price: $60 (Students $15)
Grade: A-

Background:

I’m embarrassed to say that this is the very first ‘legit’ play I have attended. My excuse: Play tickets are expensive (usually way more than movie tickets or even concert tickets). This play, Osage County, had a special price for students probably because it played in a venue located inside the UCLA campus. Overall, it was a great experience, and I think I will try to attend more from now on.

Attending a play is a unique cultural experience. The felt emotions are more visceral and immediate, absorption easier, and after-taste thicker. “August: Osage County” is a three-hour long play, yet it never feels drab or dragging. It was awarded Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2008 and since has been adapted into a movie. However, like many other book adaptations, the movie version is said to be much inferior to the play version.

Synopsis:

Tolstoy said in the novel Anna Karenina that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” In this play, audiences will get to know in what numerous ways this Weston Family living in Oklahoma is unhappy. The patriarch figure has died, and the extended families are visiting the mother for the funeral. There, the family is forced to confront its past and present. The mother, Violet Weston, is an incorrigible, grouchy old lady who is addicted to medicine pills. She is suffering from a mouth cancer, and when her three daughters are gathered, she pours forth derisive remarks toward them for every little fault they might/might-not have committed in the past. They let out their past regrets, resentment, yet the prospect of reconciliation is far out of sight beyond the wide prairies of Oklahoma.

Three daughters have hardships of their own. The oldest, a several times divorcee, attempts yet again a marriage and brings her fiancée to the funeral, not able to stop bragging about her upcoming marriage and the great man she found. The second daughter, Barbara (a main character along with her mother, Violet), is going through a separation, possibly resulted from her constant surveillance toward her husband and her daughter. (Her husband has a young lover too.) The youngest daughter is in love with her first cousin, planning to run away to New York with him after the funeral.

There are many more characters in this play (total 21 characters), yet every character is distinctive and memorable. I especially liked the feisty daughter of Barbara, a 14 year-old, pot-smoking, foul-mouthed yet precocious girl who is confused in the midst of her parents’ separation. However, the most well drawn character, of course, is the mother, Violet Weston, who might or might not have known the imminent suicide of her husband.

“Osage County” movie cast, with Julia Robert and Ewan Mcgregor

Allegorical Viewing:

It is a darkly comic epic play, a family drama that majority – if not all audiences – can relate to in one way or the other. Main characters consist mostly of females in this particular play, and their dominant roles in the family play out differently in each case. The oldest of them all, Violet Weston, is frail and capricious, yet she is wise and even omniscient. She knows all the secrets and on-going events in the family. She reminded me of this matriarch figure in Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, in which the supreme mother, although she is blind, is the one who sees all. Theirs are the wisdom that only a long-lived life can attain.

Many characters unconsciously choose to lie to themselves in order to mitigate the inevitable hardships and pains of life. Witnessing such choices, we somehow feel affinity toward the characters because we realize that it is not only us that have troubles in our families.

Writing a review for a play, I realized how difficult it is to recommend a play because unlike movies, play is live and when the season is over, there’s no way for the reader to experience it. Yet, even reading the play is sometimes worth it, and anyone who—like me—likes family drama can enjoy this witty play. This play has an appeal that transcend over national borders; in many Asia countries, the translated play has garnered many acclaim.

Runaway

 photo runawaycover.jpgRunaway Book Review

By Alice Munro
Pg. 335, Published in 2004
Genre: Short Story Collection, Drama
Grade: A

Background:

Alice Munro

Alice Munro received Nobel Prize in Literature last year. I was elated when I heard the news because she undoubtedly deserved it. She writes short stories (only one novel in her half a century career), and they are incomparable to any, and insurmountable by any. Jonathan Franzen said in the New York Times review that whenever he writes the review of her books, he feels guilty because however much praise he means to confer it, it doesn’t seem enough. I agree wholeheartedly with him. Her stories are that good. Her writing is simple but deep. They are unpretentious yet delves deeply into the vagaries of human nature. She mostly writes about family dramas.

Synopsis:

William Blake said of a short story, “To see a world in a grain of sand… If you concentrate your attention on some apparently insignificant portion of the world, you will find, deep within it, nothing less than the world itself. The short story concentrates on its grain of sand, in the fierce belief that there—right there, in the palm of its hand—lies the universe.” This description reflects what Munro does in her stories. They focus on the seemingly insignificant event of a character and show ‘nothing less than the world itself.’

The eight stories in this particular collection are long-short stories. Each spans about 40-50 pages long. The title story, “Runaway,” is about a woman who is discontent with her marriage. She decides to runaway, with a help of an elderly neighbor, and on the bus going out of town, she changes her mind to come back. What made her to turn around? The story is packed with many symbolisms and biblical allusions. The next three stories are about the same protagonist, named Juliet (same as my daughter’s!), and each story portrays a vignette when she was 20,30, and 50. The story of love predominates in the first one. She falls in love with a married man and she doesn’t understand what prompted this strange emotion. In the second story, she just had her first child and her new status as a parent changes the relationship with her own parents. The final story revolves around her grown-up daughter who has disappeared from her life entirely. In my favorite story “Tricks”, a women, whose life was forever changed by one rejection from a man whom she met just once, realizes 40 years later in her life that destiny plays many ‘tricks’ on mortals and that one significant past rejection was also a part of those ‘tricks.’ She loves attending Shakespeare plays, and it’s extremely heartrending when she realizes that, “Shakespeare should have prepared her. Twins are often the reason for mix-ups and disasters in Shakespeare. A means to an end, those tricks are supposed to be. And in the end the mysteries are solved, the pranks are forgiven, true love or something like it is rekindled, and those who were fooled have the good grace not to complain.” Thus is the life.

As Jonathan Franzen, again, mentions, summarizing her stories properly is impossible. Many of her stories are available for free online. You will become a wiser person by reading her stories. Link

Allegorical Reading:

Over 90% of time, her protagonists are women. Those women “simply by trying to survive as a whole and independent person, incurred painful losses and dislocations; they have caused harm.” Also known as a feminist writer, Munro writes about subtle hardships of women, those that still have not been triumphed in this post-feminism era. Her way of treating the subject of feminism is unique. Like in her first story, other lesser feminist write would conclude the story by saying that ‘the woman ran away from her husband and lived independently happily ever after.’ Instead, this woman can’t imagine the future without her husband in it, although resentment still in check, and decides to come back to her husband. Back home, she kills a lamb (they live on a farm), a symbolic gesture that signifies that the decision to come back was indeed her own choice, not anyone else’s.

It’s interesting to read this collection while keeping in mind the author’s different treatment of men and women. This is not superficial narcissism, which tries to place women above men. She is sympathetic toward her characters, both men and women, yet their irreconcilable differences, which often are the causes of the break-up of a family, lie bare in her stories, helping us to understand the other better.

Family. I believe that what’s most important in life, and also what should be most important for all in life, is family. Family is a huge small word. It is a world in itself, and it can produce endless dramas. Many countries with high economic status have divorce rate higher than 50%. Many women in Munro’s stories also go through divorce. I feel that by reading these stories, people can nurture more compassionate approach when dealing with one’s family members. The trouble is inevitable in a family, however perfect it might appear to be. What can be done is our understanding of family members, their inexplicable hardships they might harbor within themselves. Reading Munro’s portrayal of many different types of families having different dilemmas, you can develop a sensitive and enduring love for your family.

Memorable Quotes:

“She keeps on hoping for a word from Penelope, but not in any strenuous way. She hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.”

“The thing about life was to live in the world with interest. To keep your eyes open and see the possibilities—see the humanity—in everybody you met. To be aware.”

“But what she believes she is doing, what she wants to do if she can get the time to do it, is not so much to live in the past as to open it up and get one good look at it.” “With Neil I worry a bit, with Maury only a tiny little bit. And Gretchen I don’t worry about at all. Because women always have got something, haven’t they, to keep them going? That men haven’t got.”

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer Review

Director: Bong Jun-Ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Song Kang-ho, Ko Ah-Jung
Production Year: 2013     Genre: Action, Post-Apocalyptic
Grade: B+

Background:

Among the triumvirate of Korean auteur who has recently debuted in Hollywood with English-speaking films (Park Chan-wook with “Stoker”, and Kim Jee-woon with “The Last Stand”), Bong Joon-Ho’s “Snowpiercer” is the most innovative, daring, and both financially and critically successful movie. Although not filmed in English, his previous two movies (“The Host”, and “Mother”) were well known outside of Korea for his unique style that embodies raw visuals, keen social criticism, and his crude portrayal of human nature in films. Adapted from French Graphic novel of the same name, “Snowpiercer” has gained positive reviews mainly due to its fresh treatment of the post-apocalyptic movie genre.

Korean actors, Ko Ah-Jung and Song Kang-Ho
Korean actors, Ko Ah-Jung and Song Kang-Ho

Synopsis:

The entire scenes in the movie take place in a train that tumbles and trundles non-stop around the earth, because if you step outside, you’ll become a ‘popsicle,’ according to one character. The scientific mission to reverse the global warming has gone awry, freezing everything on the surface of the earth. Before human race is completely wiped out, this one fascistic and prescient engineer built a train and boarded the survivors on it. People in train are sharply divided by their social status; the front of the train is occupied by the wealthy elites and the rear by the lower class. Of course, the proletariats revolt, after 17 years of filthy confinement – they had two revolutions in the past, both of which failed – and charge forward. Mayhem ensues as those proles try to get to the very front where Lord Wilford resides. Each section (cabin) of the train serves different social purposes – food storage, school (identical to North Korean education system), nightclub, garden, etc -. The whole movie traces their struggle to end the unequal treatment, showing us the sharp social stratification extant even in the civilization on a train in this post-apocalyptic world,. The movie stars many familiar faces including inexorable Chris Evans (the only actor who plays two different Marvel characters in current Hollywood scene: Human Torch in “Fantastic Four” and Captain America in “Avengers” Movie), Tilda Swinton (as a man indeed, with a buck tooth), Ed Harris as Lord Wilford (so fitting), Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, and the Korean actors, Song Kang-Ho and Ko Ah-Jung.Battle scene

Allegorical Viewing:

The storyline may seem typical: the have-nots trying to overthrow the elites. Yet such similarity entails with it a sense of newness due to the setting; the revolution is taking place entirely inside of the train. The dark, claustrophobic nature of the cabins adds fresh tensions to the battles (mostly fought without guns; bullets are scarce in this future). The movie portrays the horror when oligarchic rule dominates the world. All in all, it’s the microcosm of the world as it is today, where 10 percent has all the wealth and confines the poor where they ought to belong (bottom rung of the social hierarchy ladder).

Evaluation:

Riches in the front
Riches in the front

The movie has a few but minor flaws. Overall, the movie is enjoyable (especially if you like unadulterated violence on the screen) and its setting evokes a feeling of immediacy. I felt that the occasions portrayed to provoke sympathy were a bit excessive. The routines of their daily lives (confined in a filthy rut, fed only a block of protein bar for nutrition – I won’t say what it’s made of -, and robbed occasionally of their children) should have been enough. However, the movie brings in cannibalism and the most unlikely betrayal, all of which seem contrived. The final twist is what really brings it from A- down to B+. The movie is overtly political with many dialogues near the end to explain the ideologies inside the train. Marx would shudder at the thought that even the proletariat revolution is a part of grander ideology from the Elites

Recommended For: People who enjoy extreme violence, who like end-of-the-world story.