Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson
Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jaime Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Go Ah-sung
Released: August 1, 2013
Holy crap this movie is great! Why doesn’t this get more attention? Why didn’t this get a wide theatrical release? It’s awesome!
As you could probably tell, I think Snowpiercer is good. Actually I think it’s freaking brilliant. Snowpiercer is a Korean film directed by the same man who did last year’s Netflix film Okja. It takes place during an apocalyptic ice age that has rendered the Earth uninhabitable, like Metro 2033. The only place where people can live is on a massive, self-sustaining train called the “Snowpiercer”. The train is divided by class, where the rich live at the front in luxury, and the poor live at the back in squalor. One day, they’ve had enough and Chris Evans’s character decides to lead a revolution to take the front of the train by force and hopefully lead to better conditions and more fair treatment for the poorest passengers.
Snowpiercer is a movie that unlike other, lesser movies, has intentions beyond being a brainless action movie. This is a movie that has something to say about society, class inequality and struggle, violent revolution, and how delicate our eco system is. The whole train can be seen as a metaphor for the world we live in. The pacing of the plot is near flawless, with no act going on for too short or too long, and each character getting the proper amount of screen time they deserve so the audience can learn about them and their motives. There are twists, horrifying revelations, emotional gut punches, and an ending that will leave your jaw on the floor. With that, and some seamless and interesting worldbuilding, this isn’t your usual Hollywood action film, this is one that is more concerned with getting you to think instead of just entertaining you for 90 minutes then moving on. The characters are also all interesting and complex. Curtis Everett seems like your standard, idealistic revolutionary leader at first, but as the movie goes on we see darker dimensions to his character that reach downright chilling levels. Even the villains have their own complexity and understandable reasons for their actions, to the extent that by the end even I saw where they were coming from.
That isn’t to say Snowpiercer as an action movie fails, in fact it excels in this category. While the beginning had more shaky cam than I expected or wanted, it only last for a moment and the rest of the action is tightly choreographed and directed. Taking place on a confined, claustrophobic train, the violence is brutal, bloody, and unforgiving. Screw your PG-13, pull your punches action movies, this is R-rated, close quarters combat that does not shy away from showing how short and blunt violence can be. The standout action sequence is one that happens in a tunnel. I have no intention of spoiling it. Watch the movie, because it’s one of the most tense, nail-biting sequences filmed in years.
On technical merits Snowpiercer also gets high marks. The film’s cinematography makes you feel like you are in this claustrophobic environment, with each section of the train feeling like a lived in, authentic place. If there was CGI involved in anything, I could barely tell if it all, except for the outside environments. The cast all do a great job as well. Chris Evans completely disappears into his role, and Tilda Swinton is practically unrecognizable as one of the most repugnant film characters I can remember seeing recently. John Hurt and Ed Harris do a great job as well as among the most interesting and spoilery characters of the movie.
It’s a struggle to come up with any real faults that Snowpiercer has. It’s not entirely a smooth watch however. One of the characters is a teenage drug addict with psychic powers that totally felt out of place in the otherwise mostly believable world of the movie, to the extent that she sort of took me out of the experience. That and…well I can’t say I remember the music that much. That’s really it though, but they still do hold this movie back from getting my first ever 10/10 rating by an inch. This is a movie that deserves more attention and I think will be remembered one day as a classic.