Sunday, February 23, 2014


Year: 2013
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-Ho, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Ko Ah-Sung

Plot: A global warming experiment fails and freezes the entire planet, forcing the remaining survivors to take refuge in the Snowpiercer, a huge train that continuously circles the globe. Over time, a class system takes shape on board, where the rich and privileged stay in front of the train while the poor remain in the tail end under horrible living conditions. The tail end passengers have finally had enough and hatch a plan to take over the train.

Review: I don't think this film has had a wide release yet, except maybe in Korea, since it's a Korean production, which is a pity, because Snowpiercer is an awesome piece of work. Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, which was discovered apparently by director Bong Joon-Ho (who finished reading it while standing at the bookshelf where he found it), the film is a sci-fi story that focuses on class inequality and survival of the fittest, or in this case at times, of the richest.

We're introduced to the poor folk at the back of the train, who live in cramped and dark cabins, squeezed together like homeless people on a refugee ship. The main protagonist is Curtis, who's planning a revolt in an effort to get to the front of the train, where the engine is. He believes if they control the engine, they can win. However, the path is far from easy, and there be plenty of surprises in store, as Curtis and company soon discover what's really going on beyond the carriage doors.

Bong succeeds in making this story a compelling and engaging experience. This could have taken place in any part of the world, but in this film, it's on a huge train, and despite the closed compartments and lack of external views (till later on anyway), Bong makes it believable overall. The division between the two classes, and how the powerful ones maintain order throughout, are well depicted. What's most interesting though, are the things that Curtis and his people find as they make their way forward, like what's in the protein blocks they've been fed with, what the people in front do to maintain a balanced world inside the train, and what threats lie ahead, of course. (There's a scene with a kindergarten which is funny and creepy at the same time, I'll let you see it for yourself)

Action wise, there are a handful of violent hand to hand fights and a cool shootout scene between Curtis and a brute enforcer that takes place between two separate carriages during the train's long turn around a bend. These prove to be more compelling and tragic rather than exciting, as tragedy becomes more prevalent the further Curtis and his friends move towards the front.

The international cast is made up of a variety of great actors, though the standout performer would have to be Chris Evans as Curtis. This film is where Evans proves that he's one of the most underrated actors out there. We know him as Steve Rogers and Johnny Storm, but he can definitely do heavier stuff as well, I've known it since watching him in Sunshine. He plays a reluctant leader here, with a backstory that's tragic enough to make you root for him long before he's even mentioned it. Song Kang-Ho is quite good as Nam, the former security expert of the train that helps them move forward, in exchange for some drugs. Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner and John Hurt are also solid in their supporting roles as Curtis' comrades, with Spencer being quite commendable as she tones down her comedic talents considerably to play a more serious person. Tilda Swinton puts on thick glasses and dentures to be the slimy upper class officer that metes out punishment to the rebels, and does a pretty good job at making herself a vile villain. Ed Harris rounds out the cast as Wilford, the train owner, which is a relatively minor role, but he's effective in it.   

If there are any areas for improvement, it would be the action scenes as Bong filmed them shaky cam style. The climax of the film was also a bit too long, though the final revelation was quite cool. It reminded me of another sci-fi action film with a similar revelation, but I won't mention it so as not to spoil it.

I'm real glad I had a chance to catch this, and I sincerely hope more people get to see it. Highly recommended. (4/5)

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