Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Tales of oppression have been told many times and the poor rising up against the rich is a common theme. Last year Elysium and the year before The Dark Knight Rises both told interesting variations of this tale but neither did it in a way that Snowpiercer did it. Snowpiercer is a visually stunning and philosophically intriguing, in the end it is hard not to find something for everyone in it. Each single act has a different purpose and thrives when doing so. Blockbusters now a days fail to live up to anything interesting while at the same time delivering the action and excitement that fuels Snowpiercer’s every scene.
Based on the French comic book Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer tells the story of an experiment gone wrong causing the world to freeze over and the only survivors are housed in a train that runs across the world. The train never stops and keeps everyone safe from the freezing cold outside. The year is 2031 and the state of the society on the train is in shambles. After many failed revolutions, the men and women of the tail end of the train decide that revolution is the way to go. Lead by Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), the tail end members begin making plans to overthrow the rest of the train.
Everett has devised a plan to get to the front of the train and take control of the all-powerful engine. With the help of fellow tail end members, Edgar (Jaime Bell), Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), and others, storm the preceding cars and overthrow the evil ruler Wilford (Ed Harris) and Mason (Tilda Swinton). Their plan is to rid the train of any prejudice and make the remaining crew members live together in harmony.
Snowpiercer is a movie attempting to be two different movie and succeeds, for the most part. It is trying to be an action movie as well as a commentary and the oppression of society. It shows just how badly the rich oppress the poor in an attempt to use them for their own benefit. Each train car is a different parts of society and different places in our society, it’s most shown that the tail end is for the poor and the rich get the front of the train. In the middle are places derived for each social classes. The tail end has to work in certain cars providing for everyone while the rich get cars with sushi and a school. The commentary is bluntly obvious and really shows just how badly the poor do have it in society. It succeeds with showing us the struggle to gain freedom that certain parts of society have to go through.
Snowpiercer is a technical marvel. Shot on a very limited budget but the effects are more convincing that some movies with bloated budgets. The cinematography is dark and seedy but gives you a look into the live of those in poverty but at the same time shows the luxurious side of the rich but never really changes the grittiness of it. The action is well shot and brutal. One scene that baffles me is the scene where the revolutionist are fighting a bunch of masked men. It is weird simply because the masks are covering everything on their faces except their mouths. It is weird but also very enjoyable. I don’t quite understand the logic behind it but the way that it was handled was great.
The acting is also great. Chris Evans yet again, after Sunshine, proves that he is more than Captain America. He gives Curtis a sympathetic edge to his character while also showing that he can bring emotions to a performance. The scene between Song Kang-ho and Chris Evans is by far the greatest achievement in his acting career. The stand out of the movie is Tilda Swinton. She takes on some of the ugliest roles and just makes it her own. It is clear that she is having a hell of a time playing the evil and crazy spokesperson for Wilford. Every scene with her contains so much energy and enthusiasm from her that it is simply astonishing that she hasn’t received more recognition for her work.
What I didn’t like about the movie was that it felt 20 minutes too long. 30 Minutes is devoted to setting up the conflict, an hour is devoted to solving this conflict, and the last 30 minutes dealing with the fallout of said conflict. I liked the way the movie was set up but when the action slowed down and dealt with the moral nature behind their actions it takes away from the momentum of the movie. I liked what the issues brought up but I felt like they were spending too much time on it. The one scene that I felt was way too long was when the Teacher (Alison Pill) is telling everyone about how Wilford and the train came to be. I know it is needed exposition but it was dragged out way to an unbearable length and could have used some trimming.
Despite some flaws with the runtime, Snowpiercer is a hell of a ride and shows just how well you can balance action and story.