Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Kang-ho Song, Ah-sung Ko, Ed Harris
This past summer we saw a crop of terrible movies. Many of them were completely uninspired, unoriginal, lifeless copycats of films we’ve seen before. Thank goodness we had films like Snowpiercer that plowed their way through the schlock and left a lasting impression. Director Bong Joon-ho’s latest film is an adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. A science experience hoping to combat global warming fails miserably leaving Earth frozen over and killing off a majority of the population. Those that had boarded the Snowpiercer train are the only ones remaining. Snowpiercer was a revolutionary train built by the Wilford Company that continually circles the world taking one year to make a complete pass around the Earth. The passengers are able to measure time by the landmarks they pass along the way.
Everyone is divided into a class system as there is a proper structure set in place. There are military officers standing by keeping order at all times. The poor people in the tail end of the section are at their ropes end and demand change. They are filthy and starving as their food comes in small protein gelatin blocks. You find out later on what those “protein” blocks are made out of and it’s not appetizing. Curtis (Evans) is seen as the leader of this section. Along with his friend Edgar (Bell), they gather the people of the tail section and lead a revolt in hopes of fighting their way passed the militia towards the head of the train where Wilford (Harris) resides.
It’s always refreshing when something so completely different comes your way. Snowpiercer became a hit this summer and art house theaters continued to sell tickets even though it was available through video on demand at the same time. I originally saw the film in the theater, and after the lights came up, it was one that I immediately wanted to re-watch and take it all in again. I even included it on my best of the summer list. It’s been picking up more traction lately now that it is available for free on Netflix’s streaming service.
I had never before seen a film by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (Mother, The Host), so I went in completely unaware of his style or vision. For a film as obscure and adventurous as Snowpiercer is, you better have a vision or your audience will see right passed you and get bored quickly especially when the whole story takes place on the train. Each section of the train is a different class and way of life. The residents are locked into their own sections and you get the idea that they have know idea what it’s like on another part of the train. This obscure and lavish concept leads to a wide variety of looks and imagery in the production design. You have the cold and desolate outdoors, but the inside of the train runs the gamut of the cramped and stuffy tail section to the elaborate set-ups in the front of the train. I don’t want to get too specific and risk spoilers. Half the fun of the film is the reveal of what comes next when Curtis and the rest of his comrades get further along the train. You realize that anything is fair game.
Even though Chris Evans has left his Captain America shield behind, he is still playing the hero once again. The design choice to have him dirty, bearded, and bundled up will help you forget he’s one of the Avengers. Joining Evans in the tail section are the diverse talents of Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), and John Hurt (Alien). Even though Evans is the lead, it should come as no surprise that Tilda Swinton is the one that steals the whole movie. Let’s face it, doesn’t she always? I like to think of this film as part of the Tilda Trifecta of 2014 after she gave disappearing acts in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. She gives another clever and funny performance and proves yet again she is one hell of a character actress. I love that she keeps taking these bizarre roles and will freely hide behind a ridiculous hair and make-up design.
Snowpiercer is absurd, fun, and twisted all at the same time. I never knew where it was going, what was coming up next, who would appear in the next car, or who would survive. The gore and violence is elevated with a Quentin Tarantino-like feel to it. Some of it may be gruesome, but due to the style and nature of the film, it never felt gratuitous. If you can hop on board and know it will be a trippy ride, you will have a grand time. I know I’ll be checking out some of more of Bong Joon-ho’s other films.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Sci-Fi/action fans will want to board this train.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS