All images owned by Moho Films and Opus Picture
Normally the kind of movies I have time for/show interest in aren’t the most critically acclaimed or nor do they have deep resonating messages. I used to eat that kind of stuff up. If there was anything Wes Anderson or coming of agey, I would find it and seek to be taken by its independent film tropes. These days, I go hard after things like X-Men, Godzilla or Edge of Tomorrow. My taste in movies have definitely changed and I’m less and less inclined to check out movies with smaller releases and aren’t big budget action movies. Now that’s not saying that I went to go check out thew newest Transformer movie, but I’ve found a really nice place in genre that combines good writing and action. I’ve been thirsting for a movie that perfectly catches this medium.
Snowpiercer was a movie that wasn’t wide released, nor did it perform very well at the box office in the US (this is a South Korean movie, despite most of it being in English, which did really well there, but not so well in the US). However after watching it, I’ve found that it is one of those movies that perfectly blends style, intriguing characters, story, and action. Snowpiercer might be one of my favorite movies of 2014.
What It’s About
Global warming eventually became a global issue that governments recognized. When they created a device that was theorized to lower global temperatures to manageable levels, they did not expect it to run wild and exterminate almost all of life by freezing the planet. All that remains are a group of individuals who were on a self-sustaining train at the time of the freeze over. 17 years later, the class system of which those arrived on the train are still the current caste of the contained society. First-class ticket riders live a life of luxury while the tail end squatters are treated as untouchables.
Curtis (Chris Evans) is a tail train citizen who is fed up with the life he and his fellow boxcar companions have, eating only protein bars and living in absolute filth. He leads a revolt that takes him from cart to cart, hoping to work his way up from the water treatment cart to the agriculture cart to the schooling cart to hopefully reach the engine to assume control of the train. As he discovers the shocking truth of how the other side of the train lives and loses the lives of friends and family in the process, Curtis becomes adamant in reaching the front of the train, at any cost.
The Train Culture and Caste System Is Absolutely Fascinating
Snowpiercer beautifully pieces together how 17 years of living conditions would affect a society. In the first thirty minutes, we learn A LOT about how the train tail citizens have survived for so long and the extent of what they have had to endure to do so. Their dirty and desolate living conditions are deeply contrasted when someone from the front of the train visits them. The color of the visitor’s clothing, their plump figure, and general attitude are stinging to see when the rest of the train cart looks like they have been starving and covered in poop and mud for the past 17 years. As we get to see the rest of the train, we see more of these contrasts and it’s visible on the tail train citizens faces when they see how the rest of their passengers have been living.
Piecing Together The Strings Is Engaging and Involving
The movie isn’t by any means short (a little over two hours), but Snowpiercer continually throws in nods to train culture without blatantly telling you the whole story, allowing the viewer to engagingly put pieces of the universe together on their own. This level of engagement requires focus but rewards you with the very interesting universe being built around the train. As you watch the movie, you could probably write a miniature law book that the passengers had to comply to, complete with punishments and rewards for corresponding behavior. History of previous tough years are referenced via the intercom, intermittent reminders and a very interesting ‘school’ cart reveals a lot of how the younger generation, not familiar with Earth that was, perceives the train and themselves.
It’s Non-Stop Entertainment That You Keep Begging What’s Next
So the story and setting is awesome, we’ve covered that in the previous sections. But Snowpiercer is an action film, filled to the brim with stylish and graphic moments of violence. I had always read that Korean films had a degree of violence that American movies don’t, and I think that is well represented here. Director Bong Joon-Ho doesn’t let up with seeing the faces of those who murder and are murdered. There are moments of fighting in pitch black, revolts in enclosed spaces, and a cool shoot-out scene between two carts across a canyon. Moments like these are definitely the storms after the calms and boy are they raging.
The Tilda Swinton and Song Kang-Ho Performances
Chris Evans did a good job as Curtis, but our protagonist has nothing on some of his supporting actors. Minsoo Namgoonng (played by Song Kang-Ho) is an ex-train security technician who is pulled into Curtis’s scheme. He’s absolutely electric and is one of my favorite Korean actors. I’ve seen him The Good, The Bad, The Weird, and the Host and he was fantastic in both and he’s fantastic in Snowpiercer. His performance is mesmerizing and his character provides a lot of the comic relief of the movie. The other awesome acting award goes to Tilda Swinton in bringing a new level of disgust (the good kind) to her character Mason, a liaison of sorts from the back of the train to the front of the train. Her character is calculatingly disgusting and Swinton excels at making characters like that so memorable. She gets directly involved with Curtis and her characters changes tones when things go from her favor to his.
There are Plot Holes and the Ending is Meh, but Who Cares
There’s some beef with Snowpiercer. A movie this ambitious with such an interesting universe is sure to have some plot holes. The logistics of some of the aspects of the train and a questioning of some of the motives of some of the characters seem illogical. But in a movie this fun, those can be bypassed. It’s never fun to scrutinize a movie too much when it’s clear the writer had a lot of fun building its universe. In a similar manner of how I approach comic books and other movies with gaping plot holes, just enjoy the ride (in this case, literally). The other beef I had was with the ending. Like a lot of similar movies in this vein, most recently I can think of Edge of Tomorrow and Journey to the West, have climactic, Snowpiercer has an over-the-top ending, where they try to fit philosophy, psychology, and meaning to the film, which is okay in some cases, but let’s remember I wasn’t looking for them to be like the indie movies I kind of loathe in this stage of my life. By no means was the ending bad, but by the end of Snowpiercer, I kind of wanted a little bit more and felt as if it was a little bit unfinished. Or maybe it’s so unfinished, it’s actually perfect. I never know which is what when people criticize or complain these arguments.
But the truth is still that Snowpiercer was an absolute blast and the gripes I had are by no means a deterrent for you to watch the movie. Get a chance at seeing this movie at a nearby theater soon.