The Corner

A Very Entertaining Dystopia

I went to see the new movie Snowpiercer on the advice of a younger colleague, and I’m very glad I did. It’s a highly political science-fiction film that succeeds in spite of its politics. The plot has to do with a post-apocalyptic train on which Earth’s last survivors circle the world on an endless loop — and on which the oppressed peasants at the back of the train finally decide to revolt against the oppressors up at the front.

Yes, it’s a pretty heavy-handed Marxist allegory. Which makes it all the more remarkable that the film succeeds aesthetically and as pure entertainment. And it does: It’s a triumph of the imagination, as the train and its residents coalesce into a fully realized and emotionally captivating setting and narrative. There are some great performances, notably by Tilda Swinton as a helmet-haired, clipped-British-accented villain who is herself middle-class but is a craven servant of the upper classes. (It would of course be completely absurd to suggest that she is meant to be a caricature of any particular U.K. prime minister of the past three decades or so. Sorry, sarcasm off now.) And, most important of all, a deep truth about the human condition emerges past all the politicizing: Man’s fundamental goal, his essence, is to transcend his circumstances. This is where the film’s allegory works best, and most successfully overcomes its Marxist roots: in stressing that the most important issue is not, as the materialist Marxist analysis would insist, who controls the train — but rather, the importance of realizing that the train is not the fundamental reality.

This is an exciting and beautifully filmed adventure story; the train is an excellent set, a realized world that manages, amazingly, to avoid claustrophobia. There is violence, but not that much more than occurs in the typical Hollywood big-budget actioner. The film is now available on a number of online video-streaming services, but try to see it in its big-screen limited release if you can; it’s a visual marvel.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More

Trump vs. Biden: A Rundown

One week out, the contrasts are worth assessing. Foreign policy Biden so far has issued no substantive critique of Trump’s foreign policy other than banalities that Trump’s comportment and unpredictability have offended allies and tarnished America’s reputation. But who exactly, according to Biden, is ... Read More

Trump vs. Biden: A Rundown

One week out, the contrasts are worth assessing. Foreign policy Biden so far has issued no substantive critique of Trump’s foreign policy other than banalities that Trump’s comportment and unpredictability have offended allies and tarnished America’s reputation. But who exactly, according to Biden, is ... Read More
Elections

The Only Middle Finger Available

If Donald Trump wins a second term, it will be an unmistakable countercultural statement in a year when progressives have otherwise worked their will across the culture. After months and months of statues toppling and riots in American cities and a crime wave and woke virtue-signaling from professional sports ... Read More
Elections

The Only Middle Finger Available

If Donald Trump wins a second term, it will be an unmistakable countercultural statement in a year when progressives have otherwise worked their will across the culture. After months and months of statues toppling and riots in American cities and a crime wave and woke virtue-signaling from professional sports ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Some Counterfactual Thinking

Election Day is one week away. Can you believe it? On the menu today: contemplating what would be different, and what would be the same, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired in 2013 instead of staying on the Court until her death earlier this year; a couple of flubbed words on the campaign trail; yes, people really ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Some Counterfactual Thinking

Election Day is one week away. Can you believe it? On the menu today: contemplating what would be different, and what would be the same, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had retired in 2013 instead of staying on the Court until her death earlier this year; a couple of flubbed words on the campaign trail; yes, people really ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Whose Seat?

Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. And I think there are two little things to say about it. The first is that we very likely have in Barrett the true successor to Antonin Scalia on the Court. Barrett clerked for Scalia and her articulation of his philosophy is probably the most faithful on the court. Justices ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Whose Seat?

Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. And I think there are two little things to say about it. The first is that we very likely have in Barrett the true successor to Antonin Scalia on the Court. Barrett clerked for Scalia and her articulation of his philosophy is probably the most faithful on the court. Justices ... Read More