When the fix for global warning out to be the nail in the coffin for Earth’s fragile ecosystem, the world returns to the Ice Age. In the frozen wasteland there is one beacon of hope, a super train which circles the planet and carries the surviving members of the human race. My review of Snowpiercer after the jump.
One train an its inhabitants are all that remain of humanity. For 10 years they have circled the globe while an eternal winter has raged outside. From the slums at the back, to Wilford, the mythical creator and protector of the engine at the front, the train is a proverbial Noah’s ark of society. After 10 years in the tail, its inhabitants have decided to launch a revolt. They’re sick of their place at the bottom of the food chain and they’re willing to risk it all to alter it. Led by Curtis (Chris Evans) and with the help of security systems expert Namgoong (Kang-ho Song) they begin their push towards the front of the train.
When you sit down to watch Snowpiercer you’re boarding the crazy train. Based on the French graphic novel ‘Le Transperceneige’, Snowpiercer is dials up the weird and completely runs with it. This isn’t a half-baked idea that backs down, this is a film which delivers on its bonkers promise. As the inhabitants from the tail section unleash their assault and move forwards, we’re thrown into increasingly bizarre scenarios. Much like in a video game, obstacles appear and our heroes must defeat them to advance. The obstacles are as scary as a carriage of assassins and as ordinary as a primary school teacher. Each reveal teaches us a little more about life on the train and builds the intensity of the mission until it almost breaks you.
There’s a fine collection of oddball characters in Snowpiercer, but it’s Chris Evans who impresses the most. He plays the pained leader of the tail with a steely resolve, yet still manages to infuse emotion into him. Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognisable as Wilford’s mouthpiece; while Alison Pill is as sharp as a knife as the sweet as pie teacher. After watching him be terrifying and menacing in several Korean films, it was amusing seeing Kang-ho Song playing a character on the side of the hero. Turns out he’s quite good at that too.
The world created in the tail section is dark and grimy. Resembling a slum in every sense, the setting creates a real feeling of hopelessness. We feel the dread along with the characters and our hearts pound as they face their seemingly insurmountable task. Some of the sections towards the front of the train are quite wondrous and I was intrigued as well as scared at the opening of each door. Apart from some shaky cam which made some of the fast-paced action sequences hard to watch, I was impressed with how the film looked. The score from Marco Beltrami along with the fantastic sound editing which brings the train to life, provides the film with its pulse. It’s dangerous, tense and never-ending.
The film has strong opinions about classism, greed and our plundering of natural resources. It’s not subtle with its messages and it’s uncomfortably on point about many of the issues we’d prefer to ignore. Much like our world, the world created in Snowpiercer is scary, unbalanced and unfair. Thankfully in both worlds there are still good people, moments of beauty and hope, for without hope we would have nothing at all.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writer(s): Bong Joon-ho & Kelly Masterson (screenplay)
Starring: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Kang-ho Song
Runtime: 126 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: July 24 2014; New Zealand: Playing as part of the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival