Even though I have stopped obsessively reviewing every single movie I watch, once in a while I have to whip out my old bag of skills, and let you, the reader, know what genius graces your theater screens.
Based on the French graphic novel series “Le Transperceneige” this South Korean- American production directed by Bong Joon-ho depicts the story of a rather grim future for human kind.
The basic plot goes as such: In 2014 in order to counteract Global Warming a chemical, CW-7, is released into the atmosphere. The experiment goes horrible wrong, and everything on earth freezes and goes extinct. Living outside is impossible, unless freezing to death is a viable option for anyone.
Only a few “fortunate” people receive tickets for an eternal train, the Snowpiercer. The train’s engine runs constantly and leads this massive train around the world. As later explained in the movie, the population on the train is its own small eco-system and the last living thing on earth.
The train is divided into sections, creating a harsh class system. The higher class people live in the front of the train – close to the engine – enjoying amenities such as spas, night clubs, restaurants, shops, and education. The tail of the train is filled with the lower class people, who have to live in the dark surrounded by filth and sustained on “protein”-bar blocks, which looks like goo.
The main plot line in the movie starts 17 years after boarding the train (2031), and is essentially the “Curtis-Revolution” lead by Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) a citizen of the tail end. The one who is in charge of the ever-running engine is in charge of train. Curtis wants to right the wrongs and help his people to a better – more balanced – life. With the help of his fellow people the revolutionists start their journey through the train taking section by section to eventually reach the engine, and obviously take charge.
They face obstacles in form of overseers and police officers sent to crush the revolution. The movie portrays one of the most beautifully orchestrated slaughter fests I have seen in a film to date. The movie doesn’t shy away from gore. Friends, comrades are lost on the way. And the group of heroes shrinks with every cart they take.
There is no reason for me to spoil any more of the story. It took a while for the movie to be released here in the United States, but I am glad that 2 years after making it, we are finally able to enjoy it. This isn’t a feel good story. It is not a story about a bad situation becoming good. There are no good guys, or bad guys. Everybody has their baggage, and the train – especially the beginnings of the never ending journey- had brought out the worst in many.
It is a fascinating concept. The train, while a rescue from the deadly cold, is also simultaneously a gigantic coffin. There is no escape, there is no advancement. There is an upper rank deciding what is going to happen, and what isn’t. The movie depicts the human condition in its rawest form. It questions decisions and assumption people have about class, rank, and order. It shows the worst and the best of human kind in an exaggerated measure. Many of the scenes in the upper class sections have an aura of a Wes Anderson movie, especially when it comes to lighting, costumes and set design.
The cast in this rather underdog film is astonishing. As previously mentioned, the protagonist of the story is played by Captain America himself, joined by Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, ballet boy Jamie Bell, and Skin’s hero Luke Pasqualino. This ensemble is rounded out by Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung, whose performance was fantastic.
This is story is fantasy – or is it? Many questions are left unanswered. But when one stops questioning the technicalities, it all makes perfectly sense. And one needs to remember that it is less about the how, when, and why, but about the status quo on the train.
The reason why I am so fascinated by this movie is simply that the concept is entirely new. So many movies have become predictable, and a surprise is only a dumb cameo. Snowpiercer managed to create this new world, which enamors one entirely.
And if this review doesn’t convince you, please consider EW (Entertainment Weekly) verdict, which defined Snowpiercer as “this summer’s best post-apocalyptic comedy horror fairy-tale”. A perfect summary of what will expect you. My, my, that is quite the title. And it makes you wonder, which movies Snowpiercer had to beat out for the crown.