Snowpiercer is a ferocious piece of entertainment.
Also it’s a miracle that it didn’t turn out as depressing and hopeless as The Road. Joon-Ho Bong directs this movie with such confidence that it’s sad that producer Harvey Weinstein wanted to cut down the length of the film. As far as English language debuts go, this is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen. Like every great film, there’s subtext underneath the blatant entertainment.
Showpiercer is set 17 years after the planet has turned into ice and a train (that looks to be as long as 50 cruise ships) holds the rest of mankind. This train stays on a constant course is and is broken up into class systems. The poor are at the “tail” of the train and the story begins there.
Chris Evans plays Curtis who is unofficial leader of the tail. These people in the tail have nothing and they live in what looks like hoovervilles. They eat black bricks of jello called “protein packs” and have their children taken away at random times. And I wish I was kidding.
Curtis’ crew is as motivated as him but he is the light that shows them the way…. even though he doesn’t want them to hero worship him. Right from the start it shows him planning how to get to the front of the train and to control the engine. Curtis is a brute who is smart, which is his best asset.
The people from the front of train, lead by a scenery chewing Tilda Swinton, show their power over the tail by means of torture and humiliation. After a random check up, the people of the tail have no choice but to finally strike. When Curtis breaks into action, the film never stops from being a non stop thrill ride. Pun kind of intended.
Chris Evans gives a career best performance as Curtis and shows layers of humanity I didn’t know existed. He holds his own with everyone in the film, including British greats John Hurt and Tilda Swinton. He delivers a monologue near the end that is heartbreaking and enlightening on what life was like when the train started it’s endless journey.
Octavia Spencer and Jamie Bell do a fine job being the sympathetic followers of Curtis and add a nice human element to the film. Korean actor Kang-Ho Song does a great job here as a man that knows the train inside and out. He doesn’t speak any English but is able to convey what he is feeling through his mannerisms and his subtle way of speaking.
The action scenes here are very original and often brutal. Another thing I would like to add is that the film utilized night vision in a way that was haunting and a bit funny. Also, axes are used as a weapon of choice here and they have never been more frightening and tactical at the same time.
The main reason I think Snowpiercer will persevere is because the plot deals with how our world is but locates it on a train and in the not so distant future. The class system is still alive and well even on this train. When Curtis and the survivors try to reach the engine, they find; Aquariums, sushi bars, an ecosystem, classrooms, and clubs. It is a sight to behold and every time the film goes somewhere new, more problems arise.
Human fight for survival when they don’t feel like they’re living and human also forget what it means to be alive when they don’t have anything to fight for. The higher the train goes, the less human and sympathetic the people are that live there. Kind of like the class system we have now.
Below is the first “axe battle” that captures the brutal yet stylized nature of the film. It’s not for the squeamish.