Snowpiercer Review

snowpiercer-review
RATING:
(3.5 STARS)

After months and months of waiting, wondering whether the notorious Weinstein Company would allow director Bong Joon-ho to share his true vision for Snowpiercer with the world, the film is finally here (in theaters and on VOD), and surprisingly, it’s awfully straightforward.

That isn’t to say it’s not a little weird, but the notion that Snowpiercer is this crazy, impenetrable, young auteur’s post-apocalyptic action flick is preposterous after one actually watches it. “Crowd-pleasing” might not be the best word to describe it, but “slick,” “skillful,” “entertaining,” and “escapist” are all quite appropriate.

The film takes place 18 years after an attempt to end global warming goes disastrously wrong. The world is covered in snow and ice, and mankind’s only survivors are the men and women who live on a perpetually moving luxury train that circles a winding, continent-spanning track exactly once every year. The train is broken up into different compartments, and the deliriously happy citizens in the pastel-colored front of the train live every different lives from the dirty, broken men and women crammed into the caboose.

Curtis (Chris Evans) is the reluctant leader of the back of the train. Alongside his younger friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), his handicapped mentor Gilliam (John Hurt), and an imprisoned front-of-train passenger (Kang-ho Song), Curtis plans a seemingly perfect rebellion. He and his comrades-in-misery make it further than any similar rebellion in the train’s history, according to the heartless, order-obsessed Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) from the front. But they simply can’t be prepared for everything that’s in front of them, and as their numbers dwindle, Curtis has second thoughts about pressing on. It doesn’t help, of course, when members of his own group have different, sometimes conflicting agendas.

Snowpiercer is the kind of film that lives on a great premise but truly thrives on thoughtful execution and surprising depth. The world in which these men and women fight for life it so detailed and the stakes are so high that anyone with a predisposition for science-fiction-tinged thrillers (like myself) will not have a hard time enjoying him- or herself. But Bong (adapting a French graphic novel alongside Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead scribe Kelly Masterson) elevates the premise with solid character development and a wicked sense of humor. “Everything has its place,” is the unofficial motto of the front of the train, and so it is with the screenplay. Curtis, Edgar, Gilliam, Mason, Octavia Spencer’s Tanya, the enigmatic and God-like train inventor Wilford, and all the others propel the story forward with the speed of a bullet train—which is to say nothing of how emotionally satisfying it all is.

To that end, the acting is better than perhaps it ought to be. Chris Evans plays a terrific reluctant hero. He’s a bit of a blank slate at first, but as the film unfolds, we discover the tragic reasons why he’s so hesitant to seize the leadership role everyone else wants for him. On the other hand, Tilda Swinton gives an unforgettable performance as the film’s most snarlingly evil villain. Virtually unrecognizable with her boyish hair and fake chompers, she chews the film’s juicy scenery in a way that’s somehow perfectly appropriate and never terribly distracting.

Despite its genre classification, Snowpiercer is definitely a film with secrets best left untouched by reviewers. It’s also one that ought to foster some strong conversation following its wild and somewhat open-ended conclusion. Of course, that means people need to see it, and while cinephiles have downloaded it in droves, the general population seems disappointingly unaware. So I’ll beat my drum and simply say: see this film. Its originality deserves our attention, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to boot.

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One Response to Snowpiercer Review

  1. Brittani July 19, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Great review! This is one of my favorites of the year so far. I think it’s my favorite Chris Evans performance too.

    Reply

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