Dystopian societies are hip.
So are post-apocalyptic civilizations.
It’s rare to find them together without robots, space travel or undead.
Snowpiercer is based off a French sci-fi graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, which colloquially translates to “The Train of the Snow Land.”
And boy is it fun.
It’s available for HD Rental through iTunes and Amazon for $6.99, or a dollar more through Xfinity OnDemand.
This is South Korean director Joon-ho Bong’s third film. Mother was released in 2009 after his creature feature The Host from 2006.
Which, far as subtitled scary flicks go, is not a bad film.
Unless foreign horror’s your wheelhouse, you can skip The Host, and move right along to Snowpiercer.
It’s Bong’s first English-speaking film, and although this is clear at times, it’s a remarkable experience.
Set entirely on a train circumventing the world, this post-doomsday thriller is riveting, intelligent and visually stunning.
Chris Evans is good as the protagonist. He’s catching a lot of critical flack for his performance. There’s a moment late in the movie where he delivers an emotional piece of dialogue that’s a bit jarring.
Perhaps a superior actor could have delivered the line better. I’d argue it wasn’t strong writing in the first place.
Other than that, Chris gets the job done.
The characters encounter quite a bit of combat, all of which involve intricate physical procedures. Between the battleship in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the blade car in Snowpiercer, Chris plays the centerpiece in two of the finest fights in cinematic history. And they were released within three months of each other.
When it comes to action sequences, the director does everything right. He utilizes long takes, different camera lenses, varied setting features, drastic changes in momentum, realistic physical contact, slow motion (there’s an outstanding sequence in which Evans dispatches several thugs with a felling axe), martial arts, weaponry, tag-teaming. The list goes on and on.
The supporting cast is great as well.
Jamie Bell, who you know from Billy Elliot, turns in a solid performance as the jokester best friend.
Upon reaching the classroom car, the schoolteacher’s played by Alison Pill. She, like Tilda Swinton, performs a quirksome role. Their characters are odd (in different ways) but the actresses pull it off.
Bong’s got Octavia Spencer pounding dudes with body shots, with fists and a piece of metal pipe on-screen!
It’s just delightful.
If you dig fights, Snowpiercer’s the flick to rent.
That being said, I think the ladies won’t like this as much. The story is thoroughly bleak and imperfect.
In fact, I agree with much of what the critics are saying. The boundary between reality and metaphor is blurry to the point of confusion.
The narrative’s allegorical which makes it difficult to connect with the characters on a human level.
Events unfold in a manner that feels more orchestrated than organic.
Despite its imperfection, the story is still thrilling and sweeps you up.
Just like the animated sequence describing the rail’s creation, this movie’s full of style.
This tendency doesn’t continue after the ending, though. So you can shut the movie off once the credits start to roll.
After reading up and carving thru all the confusion, the ending’s a tad bit dissatisfying. My buddy fell asleep, and I’m still not in love with it.
As a final note, there is an aspect of this story I find gross.
People respond to the grotesque in four ways: 1) Revulsion 2) Silent Distaste 3) Cool Indifference 4) Embracement.
I’m weak in this area. I’m a 2 but would rather be a 3, like my friend who watched Snowpiercer with me.
It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But my buddy disagrees.
We both agree, however, it’s totally worth the ride along the way.
So to the 1’s I suggest caution.
To the 2’s I say, “Power through, compadres.”
To the 3’s, keep chilling.
And to the 4’s, God help you.