Director: Bong Joon-ho Writers: Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris Runtime: 126 min Rating: R
Snowpiercer has been hyped since 2013 to be one of the most creative and thrilling films of the past decade. Finally, it is reaching North American audiences, and I am pleased to say that the hype was completely true. The film is sure to become a genre classic, and hopefully, a box office hit.
Soon after releasing a chemical that would allegedly put an end to global warming, the world has been frozen over, and the majority of the population has died. Those that remain have been forced to board the Snowpiercer, a luxury train built to travel eternally, without the need to go outside in order to get fuel or sustenance. Inside the train, a strict cast system has been established, and while people near the engine enjoy a life of comfort, the people in the tail have been left to be abused and controlled by soldiers. Tired of their state of living, Curtis (Chris Evans) decides to create an insurgency, and with the help of people from the tail, as well as others he will meet along the way, he will try to reach the engine in the hopes of controlling it, and with that change the way things are run.
The film truly has something for everyone. It has action and violence, but it is also absolutely intelligent and insightful. It is visually appealing and heartbreaking, and it has an amazing cast to back it up. I was very surprised by how well Chris Evans took on his role, and he gave Curtis an appropriate level of strength while staying a complex and vulnerable character. The rest of the cast each brings a special quality to their characters, even those who are not given much screentime or lines. Octavia Spencer as Tanya shows wonderful complexity and warmth, and her character is easily one of the film’s finest. Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung play two key characters exceptionally, and the way the film managed the language exchange between characters was creative and refreshing.
Reiterating what many have already pointed out, Snowpiercer is very very loosely based on the acclaimed graphic novel. If you are a fan of the series, or just familiar with it, don’t expect to see its story unfold on screen. I would say Bong took certain elements of the novel and used them to create a new reality inside the train. While it is obvious that the scripted success of the movie exists because of the work it inspires itself from, the director truly created a new story with enhanced characters and scenarios. Of course, it is much easier to get hooked on the cinematic story since there are attractive visual elements to interest the viewers, and this is especially true with the film’s violence. Staying true to his celebrated background, Bong deals with these instances masterfully, and his incredibly stylish mode of filmmaking is once again highlighted through these acts.
I am going to rave about this movie because despite very few flaws, it is intrinsically important as part of the mainstream cinema of our time. Whether you want to admit it or not, the entertainment we are fed is increasingly mindless, unoriginal, uninspired, and monotonous. Snowpiercer treats its viewers with respect, it gives its characters voices and importance. It gives people of colour a chance to identify with a variety of characters who are imperative in the progression of the story. It doesn’t sexualize women and it shows them as wholesome characters instead of the usual unidimensional model. It’s very simple: The film takes a story and translates it on screen as an intelligent adventure lead by well crafted and diverse characters which provide audiences with enough content to cause reflection within oneself. It was made by a Korean director who very well matches and outdoes North American directors with a fresh style and a unique perspective. It is beautifully shot and constructed. I could go on for hours but I don’t think there is anything more I can say. I feel a sense of urgency to ask viewers to give Snowpiercer a chance this summer, because I can say, without hesitation, that is the best film you will see this season.