snowpiercer_1Year: 2014 (US)
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writer(s): Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson
Region of Origin: South Korea, US
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: R
35mm, Color, 126 mins

Synopsis: In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off all life on the planet except for a lucky few that boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, where a class system evolves. (Source)

Snowpiercer redefines the standard of what a good summer film should be. Based loosely on the post-apocalyptic graphic novel by Jacques Lob, director Bong Joon-ho has created a nuanced, intelligent film that works both as a relentless action thriller and politically keen social commentary. Like any of Bong’s previous films (The Host, Mother), the film deftly balances a tone that’s distinctly his, sprinkling in satire, colorful characters and constantly evolving, inventive action scenes that prove how scope and ambition don’t need mega budgets to dazzle. Watching this film makes you realize just how empty and flat modern Hollywood blockbusters are, and its breathless execution is one that shouldn’t be missed.

Sometime in the future, global warming rises to fatal levels. Shooting experimental rockets into the sky meant to cool down the Earth’s temperatures, mankind unwittingly plunges itself into another ice age, nearly killing all life on earth. The few remaining survivors board an indestructible train called the Snowpiercer. Once created for luxury, but now acting as the last chance for survival, the train is a self-sustaining eco-system running on a perpetual-motion engine. But survival isn’t merely living, as proven to the poor passengers at the tail end of the train, who struggle in disgusting conditions as the rich and wealthy classes live carefree at the front. After 17 years of suffering the unequal economic system, the tail inhabitants, led by an unwitting Curtis (Chris Evans), prepare for the latest hope of making things right, a last ditch rebellion to control the engine and take over the train.

Like the train itself, the film enjoys a relentless perpetual motion that never stops, using the film’s minimal and simple premise to systematically present one of the most horrifying and gripping parables about inequality. This is no more evident in the rich, layered world that Bong has created within the train, taking our underdogs from poverty to obscene wealth as they travel from the front and back of the train, all while being pursued and hunted by traitors and a wealthy dictatorship who have their own twisted, yet logical brand of balance. As a complete eco-system, each car brings a distinct style to every scene with limitless possibilities, from military blockades, gardens, schools, slaughterhouses for meat, aquariums until finally giving way to luxurious spas, clubs and more things that shouldn’t be spoiled. If it sounds a bit over the top, it is, but it cleverly exposes the different classes against the heroes’ struggles, which don’t come without their own set of morally complex sacrifices. In this way, the film gives us plenty to think about within its incendiary plot without every sacrificing emotional thrills and impressive action. Even still, the film never feels pretentious – it’s done so well that you can easily pick up on it’s themes but still enjoy it purely from an entertainment standpoint.

snowpiercer_3Inhabiting the train are some truly memorable characters with actors who present a myriad of themes and sympathetic gateways into the film’s world. As the unsure, yet determined leader of the rebellion, Chris Evans turns in another powerful role which proves he’s one of the more charismatic and nuanced actors of his generation. As Curtis, he’s got an incredibly tragic backstory which slowly unfolds throughout the film, and though he may have leaderships skills and is even adored by many, his shady past is never far from catching up to him. This gives Evans a chance to push the nobility of his Captain America sensibilities to new heights and he steals the scene when he discovers the true nature of what his rebellion means. John Hurt brings some gravitas to the proceedings as Curtis’ defacto mentor while Tilda Swinton is a knock out as Mason, a ridiculous and eccentric pawn for the train’s mysterious leader Wilford. Also of note are Jamie Bell, a kid who adores Curtis and wants nothing more than to be like him, while Korean stars Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung (previously from Bong’s The Host) raise the stakes and add a wild-card unpredictability. Speaking of the characters, one of the best things abotu the film, is that anyone can die at any moment, and not for shock, but in ways that make the revolt have real stakes and meaning.

There’s a lot that can be said and picked apart about how clever and so on point Snowpiercer is, but not without spoiling the film’s subversive final act. The best advice I could give to you is that, it’s the perfect antidote to all the empty spectacle out there, and a truly visionary exercise from a director that just keeps getting better. The film stands on a class of it’s own, taking its smart metaphor for the human race and turning it into an accessible, well made thrill ride that’s brutal, bleak and yet not without hope. This is one train you definitely don’t want to miss.

Crome Rating: 4.5/5

SG