Warning! Warning! The following is a review of Snowpiercer and so contains an extensive reference to the movies plot points and characters. Contains major spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk…
So after a long time, I finally got round to Snowpiercer the other day (when I wrote this paragraph, a few months ago) and well, I have a lot to say. So very good but also some bad. Before you read any further I want to say, I really recommend this film and I suggest that you watch it now if you haven’t already because I’m going to spoil a lot of this movie which is why I labelled it for major spoilers. Basically in short, I think a lot of it is great, there’s some great acting and some very good direction. Beautiful cinematography, great action, interesting characters and cool world building. There’s some great stuff in here but it has some big problems that really require a suspension of disbelief which I would like to go into more depth here. But first, to recount the basic plot before I break the movie down. Here’s the point that if you haven’t seen, I would advise that you leave now if you haven’t yet seen it. Now, without further ado, on with the review.
Before I go into breaking down the movie, a little refresher for the movie if you haven’t seen it in a while. The film follows Curtis, a member of back of the train along with the other third class members as they struggle to both survive and get to the front of the train. The train is split into several social classes that get better off as you move towards the front with each part of the train being designed to have their own part in making sure the train is running smoothly and they can all survive. The film basically follows the revolution against this idea as the third class literally moving towards and taking the front half only for a decision made leading to the train falling off the tracks and only two members (Yona and Tanya’s son Tim,) seem to survive the crash. So yeah, the plot is pretty simple for an action Sci-Fi film but that really works in its favour for how tight the pacing is and exploration of the world. So without further ado, let’s jump back into the review.
First thing I’ll say proper apart from my short review at the top is that I feel Bong Joon-ho brings an excellent style to the movie that brings together both a Korean and Hollywood team together much like films like The Raid brought a Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans to Indonesian cinema. Similarly they are directors that work in different environments and bring their unique style of both filmmaking and writing across the world. Sorry, I just really love both of those movies despite their flaws, one being one of the best action films of all time and the other being a very interesting Sci-Fi action movie with well written drama and interesting world building.
Now on to what I like most about the film and that is the story itself. It has this sort of Metro 2033 vibe of the narrative although instead of Nuclear War in Snowpiercer, it is an attempted cure for climate change (which I have problems with, Science wise, that I will discuss later) and instead of living underground, it is living within a train. So maybe a another strange comparison to make but I feel it has quite a few similarities so if you’ve watched the movie and haven’t played that series then I would recommend it.
So first the good and that is the acting, action and main narrative. I feel that each part of the main story was handled in a very interesting way where you could feel for each of these characters and their struggle. You see how they do anything to get to the front even if it leads to the death of themselves or others. There are characters that at the beginning seem like well-meaning asshats that are looking out for each other, each of these characters is given some sort of baggage pushing them forward each step of the way. You have Curtis the leader and main character, played very by Chris Evans of Captain America and Scott Pilgrim Vs the World fame (honestly, he should be in more movies, he can carry both action and is a great actor at the same time). Although he seems like a good person, at times of struggle he fell into the traps of cannibalism, we literally watch a character who stole and ate babies much like anyone in the back of the train would do. It is chaos whilst the front of the train saw luxury of the finest standard. You got John Hurt’s character Gilliam who is literally working with the “villain” of this movie. You have Tinda Swinton playing Mason, you have Jamie Bell as Edgar (the baby Curtis was going to eat as revealed in the later half of the film), Kang-ho Song and Ko Asung phenomenal actors in Korean film. You also have Ed Harris as the owner of the train who gets the best treatment and man, he is so both menacing and interesting to watch. What I am saying is this movie has a great cast and by damn, they are used to their full advantage.
There’s also the main narrative of the train and how each part of it is split into social classes or like Mason says, “You are a shoe, a shoe doesn’t go on a head, it goes on a foot” or something like that, clip below. By damn, I love the monologue of this film, each of the speeches, although few are used as the story is mainly told in action. It is very much like Mad Max: Fury Road where it’s a tale of going from A to B whilst challenging social class and breaking free from revolution. It also challenges the ideas of survival and how the leaders can push a narrative to get what they want (see most leading politicians or business men here). Although I discussed Fascism in my last post, I think this is also a great example of how to present this type of dystopia with everyone doing their part to survive. But as most revolutions go, people die to begin something anew and sadly, it’s most of the train that goes with it.
It has a very interesting concept with some cool metaphors that you can take from it. So the cure of climate change is meant to be cured by am geo-engineering plan that uses a chemical to freeze the atmosphere. This seems to not get the idea that it is not global warming but climates being changed at a rapid rate. It’s not just getting warmer, the weather everywhere is getting worse. Colder in some areas and warmer in the others, eco-systems used to a certain type of weather seeing something entirely different.
There’s also some weird disorientation with how the action is cut at times but that area is mostly great practical stuff with some incredibly memorable sequences. It just feels like a Sci-Fi film that actually tackles climate change but the actual Science behind the idea of the dytopia seems a bit off. But anyway as a film tackling climate problems whilst being an action movie, it is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had watching a film in a few years and I’m glad to get to review it especially as it tackles themes similar to this month’s retrospective. I give this movie a pretty awesome/10.
Anyway, we are at the end of this review/recommendation of Snowpiercer. If you’re in for a Sci-Fi Action movie that is both bizarre and interesting then I recommend you check this out, especially if you are a fan of the director Bong Joon-Ho or the the fabulous cast that give it their all but hey if you’re a fan of them then you’ve probably already checked this out. Plus I spoiled stuff so this was really just a way for me to discuss how much I like this film. One of the best action films of the decade in my opinion and we are dealing with films such as The Raid and John Wick being released in the same decade. Very interesting use of metaphor for how social classes and people are treated as well. Sorry, this is a bit late today but I had my last post to write and I wanted to watch this film once again before throwing my thoughts into the world wide interwebs. Seeing you’ve probably seen it, what are your thoughts on it, future thinkers? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Let me know down in the comments below…
Michael McGrady, Signing Off.