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Running From Spoilers. A Snowpiercer Story

Snowpiercer is confrontational and alien even though the faces are welcome and familiar: Chris Evans, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, etcetera....

On my first viewing (there will be another) I tumbled through a cascade of dischordant feelings from revulsion to pleasure, from excitement to confusion, from ehhh? to awe! I'm not sure I quite got to "love" (that takes more time with the chilly pictures and for once I wished the movie I was watching was longer) but it's a must-see with enough ambition and visceral excitement to charge a handful of lesser movies. Why is it in limited release like an arthouse curio? It could easily be sold, and not fraudulently, as a sci-fi action flick with Captain America himself leading its linear (in both sense of the word) charge through a speeding allegory train.

In many years of running a movie blog I have struggled in the chasm between my preferred viewing style (cold, with no knowledge of the movie beyond premise/director/cast) and the reality of moviegoing in the 21st century when you know EVERYTHING in advance. Snowpiercer has been open for exactly 6 days and on only 8 screens in the US and there's already articles at major sites analyzing its ending. Before 99% of its audience ever gets a chance to see it.

Yet somehow, bless the cinema gods, I had escaped ANY knowledge of Snowpiercer beyond the post-production battle over the final cut and its basic premise (Earth has frozen over / Only survivors live on a train). I was intrigued by the eccentric Global cast list and its South Korean director (seek out his inventive monster movie The Host and his incredible actressy mystery Mother) and that was it. Somehow -- and I don't know how I managed it -- I had never seen a single clip or trailer. I was THRILLED the entire time, never knowing what lurked beyond each gate on the train, or how important each actor would be to the plot, and surprised virtually every time by the shifting visuals and forward charging action beats.

Speaking of forward charging: Luke Pasqualino, a 25 year-old British Italian actor I wasn't previously familiar with, is mesmerizing in fleet-footed action as "Grey". He's also ridiculously easy on the eyes despite the fact that the entire cast looks like they haven't bathed in 3 years. Can he be in every action movie now? (I guess I'll have to watch some of his TV work - any recommendations?)

Seeing a movie cold is impossible to do regularly of course -- especially when you run a movie blog and know that the biggest traffic drivers are future-based (trailers, Oscar predictions, casting). That's why most movie blogs focus solely on what's yet to come that endless grind of rumors and speculation, rather than time-travelling constantly like this one does.

But I highly suggest trying this experiment - no clips, trailers, reviews - valiantly for ONE movie you're looking forward to this year. Pick that movie. See if it changes the experience and makes that particular film instantly exciting and less predictable while you're watching.  

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Reader Comments (24)

Actually, I managed to go to How To Train Your Dragon 2 COMPLETELY cold. I knew nothing about the plot or who the new voices were and had somehow never seen a single trailer or commercial for it, and I didn't even realize this until I sat down in the theater to watch it. It was bliss, I tell you. Complete and utter BLISS. I've stayed relatively in the dark about Snowpiercer, too, but I've had to be more active about that.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I see most movies 75% cold (only production stills, billboards, the unavoidable on- and offline chatter) and tend to avoid reviews and trailers, especially if I'm really interested in the film.

I know more about Foxcatcher than I do about Snowpiercer at this point, for example.

True story: I saw both The Crying Game and The Matrix unspoiled six months into their releases. (Don't ask why it took me so long.) Even without the spoilertastic internet of today, I had to work *really* hard to stay virginal on those.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Despite writing about SNOWPIERCER, I've managed to avoid spoilers and too many clips. I am SO EXCITED to see it on Friday. Until then, you will find me with my fingers firmly lodged in my ears yelling LALALALA every time someone mentions it.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Its wonderful to see a film cold........if its a good experience. But I appreciate seeing trailers now because I manage to avoid (spending hard earned money and time on) some turkeys because the trailer has warned me off. True, they occasionally warn me off a wonderful film because the trailer distorts the film and its message in order to grab any audience possible because the suits have no faith in intelligent film goers finding their product........but......

So, I will see some films cold if I trust the director. Bond is the only film I will see cold because of the franchise.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

If you are interested in Luke Pasqualino's tv work I would definitely recommend Series 3 of the UK series Skins. Its not quite as good as the first two series but Pasqualino is worth watching it.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterQueermyntcritic

Luke Pasqualino is British - born here so we're claiming him!

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKit UK

When will Tilda get another Oscar nomination? I thought she was worthy
for the Deep End, Julia & Kevin...I think the academy is a little afraid of
her eccentricity...

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I always try to go in cold -- one reason I love film festivals so much, because often there isn't anything to see.

It worked for SNOWPIERCER. I knew only what you knew, Nathaniel, and had the same series of shocks and surprises throughout. The other benefit of going in cold is that you don't have a predisposed opinion. ... I'm still trying to sort out my contradictory reactions to SNOWPIERCER. Sounds like you are too.

The film I'm trying damn hard to see as a "virgin" is BOYHOOD. I even closed my eyes and plugged my ears during the trailer in a theater last night. I'm sure I looked insane but it was worth it.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Seconding the love for Pasqualino on Skins. That show was such a goldmine for young talent. I was so happy to see him here, and agree, his run with the torch was EPIC. Actually genuinely agree with every aspect of this review. I knew next to nothing going in, and I thought there was something really magical about the way that Snowpiercer unfolded as cinema. Like Let's Make A Deal meets The Wizard Of Oz.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I avoided spoilers with didn't help. Movie was only ok/average, except Tilda.

But I do agree with you. It's nice to go to a movie without knowing anything about it.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

BTW seeing the SKINS seasons with Pasqualino won't be a waste either as you'll also be seeing Jack O'Connell (Starred Up, Unbroken). They play best friends.

As for Snowpiercer, I really, really liked it. And like you, I saw it completely cold. I knew who the cast was but... that's it. Exhilarating.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I will go into Snowpiercer cold, and see what happens. I just know that it has buzz, some Weinstein drama, and that God is in it—i.e., Tilda.

I did this with The Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men:Days, and oh boy, what a pleasant surprise. Both movies are really well made and super fun, but going into them with no expectations probably made my experience the much richer.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJones

I WANT to go to Snowpiercer (and blind), but I don't know if I'm even going to be able to see it in theatres, because, somehow, backwards distribution views Katy, TX (population: 14,000) as more important than Toronto, ON (population 2.6 million).

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I already know way too much about Snowpiercer sadly, mainly because I follow certain tags on Tumblr and following Captain America there pretty much spoils you for any and all upcoming projects any actor involved in Captain America has. For instance, I know a shockingly huge amount about Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier), despite being neutral at best about him, but he's impossible to escape in Tumblr, where he has been embraced with delirious passionate fervor by the teenage girl/gay demographic.

These days, if I want to go into a movie cold, I update Website Blocker with specific websites. Doesn't work all the time, but it's enough of a reminder at least for me to stay off the internet if being unspoiled really matters that much for me.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterF

volvagia- Katy is a suburb of Houston, population 2.1 million, lol, but yes, it's a shame it isnt playing at more theaters

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterp

I've actually been thinking of starting a blog about this exact thing: consuming pop culture, without reviews, trailers or any hints of what's to come and how things are being received. A very difficult task for sure (I'm addicted to TV recaps) but this article is inspiring me to take it on!

Also, can't wait to see this :)

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

I had the most awesome moment ever because I went into a movie not knowing anything - after one year, I learned that Gandalf is alive! (obviously I have really great friends who didn't spoil it for such long time.)

Luke Pasqualino - you should watch BBC's The Musketeers, I think it is currently airing in the US. I fell SO HARD for him...

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIvonne

In 2002 - at the height of my obsessive pre-release trailer-watching and review-parsing I found roughly 80% of the films I saw in the cinema disappointing (including things like Adaptation, Far from Heaven and, my current pick for best film of the aughts, Talk to Her). Almost all of them have since shot up in my estimation upon a second viewing.

In 2003 I decided I would stop watching trailers and reading reviews (beyond glazing over a few just for the grade or general positive/negative gist). I've been a much happier moviegoer (and therefore a much happier person) ever since.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

I unexpectedly encountered his work twice in the last year when I watched the third season of Skins, where he's appropriately dreamy, and in the Borgias, where he's appropriately dreamy. (Also, not sure if you've ever watched it or reviewed it, but that show turns unexpectedly glorious and addictive in the second season, and ends on a beautifully baroque moment in its last. It's too bad the first season was so awful.)

I had to choose between this and The Immigrant last week at the theaters, and my cravings for some Marion/Joaquin/stately drama won out, but this looks like such an original delight. Can't wait for another opportunity to see it.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

I find that, with the amount of websites I read and shows I watch, I can rarely go into a movie cold. That's why I love and frequent any film festival that comes along - it's really the only time I can see a movie without knowing about reviews or having seen trailers . I do a little bit of research (mainly about the awards that it has won) to narrow it down to a small list from each festival, and then try not to read anything else before watching the movie.

July 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

I don't even know how one could completely avoid spoilers nowadays. When you see films regularly and when those films come with four to seven trailers ahead of them, you're bound to see a trailer before seeing a film. I tried to go spoiler-free on Boyhood, for example, but have been subjected to the trailer at least two or three times when seeing stuff at the IFC.

How do you guys do it?

July 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

After having way too many movies spoiled in one form or another, I've now instituted a pretty firm policy where I don't read anything about a movie once the main cast and director have been announced (since those always involve some level of plot/premise description), and only watch the first two trailers. Anything past that is just overkill, especially in this era where studios will put out half a movie in clip form pre-release.

It has made my summer experience this year much more enjoyable, including Snowpiercer, which I went into semi-blind about (I think I saw a trailer a year ago, but didn't remember it) and quite enjoyed, though funny enough I came out of it thinking that Harvey Weinstein wasn't crazy for wanting it a bit tighter in the editing department.

July 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Just finished watching this movie ice cold. All I knew about it was that Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton starred. I knew none of the other actors involved prior to viewing. I am so so so so happy I did this, and plan on re-watching the film before my FIOS download is up.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjtagliere

jtagliere -- right? it was so exciting.

roark -- that surprises me because I thought it was really tight.

July 27, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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