Hey guys! Horrorella here...
At long last, Bong Joon-Ho's post-apocalyptic science fiction tale, SNOWPIERCER, is seeing its U.S. release. And I am happy to say that it was totally worth the wait, and lives up to every expectation set forth. An interesting premise, magnificent cast and flawless execution add up to make it one of the best films you are likely to see this year. A bold piece of science fiction, as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.
Based on the graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, and co-written by Kelly Masterson, the film is set in a near future post-apocalyptic wasteland wherein Earth is frozen solid, and the last remnants of life are all confined to a train, ever circling the glove. Over the seventeen years since the incident that ended it all, a very specific class structure has developed on this train, with the wealthy, comfortable first class members living it up at the front, and the lower class trying to hold it together in the tail. A dogmatic, almost cult-like belief structure has sprung up surrounding the mysterious Wilford, the engineer who first developed the train and is responsible for the safety and life of every living thing aboard it. It is believed strongly (by the front section, anyway), that every passenger on board owes their lives and allegiance to Wilford, and that it is their duty to respect the pre-determined order and stay in their assigned place. It’s what people in power always say. But the time has come for revolution, as passenger Curtis (Chris Evans) and a band of tail sectioners (played by the likes of John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung) lead a rebellion to take the engine room and bring about a new order.
The world that Bong builds here is perfect, all at once unique and familiar. The train is, indeed, the world. People of all races and cultures exist aboard it, all fitting in to specific social classes. For some of them, the train is an eternal vacation. They live in luxury, day in and day out, knowing that, through its various functions, the train will provide for their every need. Even though the world outside has gone to shit and survival is dependent on the very existence of this train, the lavish lifestyle has had no reason to halt.
And conversely, the tail section has rotted in utter poverty for the past seventeen years. If the population on the train owes its lives to Wilford, that goes double for the tail section, who don’t even have the right to be there in the first place. They aren’t passengers so much as cargo – trailing behind, minimally cared for, and expected to serve at the pleasure of the front passengers. It is a funhouse mirror of the world we see ourselves in today. Stretched and distorted a bit, yet true at its core. As the middle class continues shrinking, the social structure of this universe doesn’t seem so terribly outlandish at all.
It’s a beautiful film, and the world that exists inside the train is as vibrant and as imaginative as you could hope for. As our band our rebels move forward, car by car, and leave behind the only section of the train they have ever seen or known, their amazement and disbelief grows (as does ours). This isn’t your average Amtrak train, and each new car is a new and exciting world unto itself. And the closer we get to the front, the more astounding the disparity between the classes. There is a particularly memorable scene involving a classroom of children that has Alison Pill stealing the entire show. Easily one of the most brilliant parts of the film.
The amazing cast is instrumental in selling this world and the place of their characters within it. This represents a new and fantastic role for Chris Evans to take on. It is strikingly different from Captain America. Curtis is a much darker character, and much more conflicted. He’s lived through a lifetime of bad shit on this train, and even though he longs for something better, he is not blind to the and is carrying some battle of scars of his own. We learn just what these are during a particularly unnerving and poignant scene near the end of the film. It’s a great performance that really gives the actor a chance to stretch, as he again plays a hero, but one reluctant to take up the mantle of leader and the accolades that go with it.
Tilda Swinton once again turns in a stunning performance as one of the film’s primary antagonists. Her Minister Mason is a wonderfully hateful character. The right-hand of the governing body and the one charged with keeping order, she is more than happy to unleash her brand of justice on the tail passengers for even daring to step a toe out of line. With her false teeth, Margaret Thatcher delivery and the way she positively spits acid with every line she delivers, you love watching her as much as you love hating her.
SNOWPIERCER is simply everything you could want out of a film. Beautifully imagined and realized, spectacular and thoughtful world-building, dynamic performances from incredible actors, wicked-awesome action pieces, and some damn good thought-provoking moments that will stay with you long after you leave the theater. It’s a film that examines not only the social and political issues we see being battled out onscreen, but also the very nature of our existence itself. There are moments in the film that will make you want to stand up and cheer, and moments that will stick with you long after you leave the theater – and really, what more could you ask for?