Inexorable, solicitous and bizarrely surprising: Snowpiercer is a twisty, sci-fi rollercoaster that’s harsh to isolate and just as hard to forget. South Korean director Joon-ho Bong conduits a dystopian world in the somewhat comic style but swops out the political satire for action and allegory.
The start, however, is a bit rocky. Cliché news clips and text boxes lay the footing of Snowpiercer’s post-apocalyptic world. In an effort to curtail global warming, nations released a chemical into the upper stratosphere that not only smothered out the warming problem; it also killed all life on Earth and made the planet into a snowball. The only humans that remain are on gargantuan train that loops the Earth once a year, and it’s done so 17 times so far. The passengers are alienated by class. Those in first class ride near the front of the train, enjoying steak dinners and saunas. Those in the back are treated like bullocks, living off of gooey bricks called “protein bars.” It’s here, in these grubby cars, that the story starts.
Curtis (Chris Evans) is a sort-of-man who leads an insurgence of the waged people with his wise-outrageously partner Edgar (Jamie Bell). They squall the guards and take the train, car by car, with the help of a locksmith drug addict named Nam (Kang-ho Song). With each car taken, the scenery vagaries, almost like the levels of a video game. Some cars are filled with incognito henchmen wielding axes, offering fight scenes in which Bong doesn’t mind getting ghastly or having fun with slow-motion/ninja-knife-move categorizations.
Other cars give insight into the train itself, how it operates as a closed ecosystem, in providing food and an impression of human culture. It’s quickly learned that those not in the back of the train hold Wilford, the train’s conductor, to be their savior, almost as if he were Christ himself. One of these is the snobbish authoritarian Mason (Tilda Swinton). Tilda Swinton’s performance is delightful, so much so that it threatens to outshine Evans and Bell.
Snowpiercer isn’t really about these characters or a rebellion moving through a bizarre, revolutionary train. On a profounder level, it’s about structure, justice and the idea of people. There are parts of the film that meritoriously speak to the need for a systematic, accurate structure to safeguard humanity’s advancement and survival. Snowpiercer’s greatest forte is: It’s got a lot of ground to cover, and it doesn’t sham to wait up for you. This Movie is full of messages for us so it’s a must watch.