Snowpiercer (2014)

Snowpiercer poster.jpg
Snow Worries

Bong Joon-Ho
Running Time: 126 minutes
Starring: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song

For his English language debut, Bong Joon-ho paints a stark reality of future events. An attempt to quell the problem of Global Warming has resulted in the world being plunged into a new Ice Age (not a new film in the animated franchise, which is even more scary). The last survivors of the human race are all living on the Snowpiercer, a massive train that continuously travels the globe. The elites live in the front of the train, benefiting from a privileged life, while the poor live in squalor at the back of the train. Curtis, one of the residents of the back of the train, leads a rebellion to take the train, and give better lives to the back inhabitants.

When you boil it down to its most simplistic, the film is essentially about the protagonists moving through each carriage, which does sound repetitive, but the reality is that it's anything but. Each of the carriages manage to be vastly different and defined in their own way, from a processing plant where one man makes the tail-ends source of sustenance, to an aquarium, and typically, a nightclub. Plus, as is with the best of future-set films, there is a great deal of relevance to modern society found. Bong Joon-Ho and Kelly Masterson's script tackles the class system, while exploring a social hierarchy where everybody has a purpose throughout, and global warming.

Chris Evans' star has been on the rise ever since he was cast as Captain America for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and if his performance here is anything to go by, there is life for him outside the franchise. Evans plays Curtis, the films protagonist, and does so with one of his best performances. At one point, he delivers a monologue which is a perfect showcase for his ability. The emotion is clearly evident on his face and in his voice, this is a scene to perfectly showcase how far Evans has come since Not Another Teen Movie. In contrast, Tilda Swinton is clearly having a ball in her role. She clearly relishes the chance to play Minister Mason, an elitist snob whose only priority is to save her skin.

The 3D Version would be terrifying

The best achievement of the film is in how well-realized the overall world aboard this train is. A world where the punishment of choice is dismemberment by frostbite, the only economy for the inhabitants of the tail section is their single source of food and cigarettes have been extinct for 10 years, so the sight of somebody smoking results in a crowd of people taking in breaths. It's these little things that goes a long way towards making the viewers believe that the tail-end passengers truly hate their way of living, that they truly want a change.

Bong Joon-Ho even takes the time to show the results of a generation who have lived their whole lives on the train. The scene takes place in a classroom, showing the children learning about Wilford, with enough fearmongering throughout to make evident that they've been taught they must stay on the train, or they'll die.

The action scenes are impressive, as Bong Joon-Ho shows a flair for inventiveness. In one scene, as the train bends around the track, a gunfight breaks out between Curtis and a henchman from opposing ends of the train. But while many films have focused on delivering the fight scenes for the sake of it, we never forget who the characters are here. When Octavia Spencer kills a henchman, it's because she's fighting to get her kid back rather than because she's a vessel through which fight scenes are delivered.

In a summer full of Hollywood blockbusters, Snowpiercer breaks apart from the pack to deliver something worthy of your money and time. Managing to be an effective tale about classism, while also including some fantastic scenes of action, there really is something for everyone here.