Review: ‘Snowpiercer’ is penetrating Special

Posted Jul 18, 2014 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Snowpiercer’ is a remarkable post-apocalypse picture that takes place on a train-turned-ark, which houses all that remains of humankind at its most vulnerable and totalitarian.
John Hurt  Chris Evans and Jamie Bell in  Snowpiercer
John Hurt, Chris Evans and Jamie Bell in 'Snowpiercer'
Entertainment One
According to movies, the future of the human race will not be pleasant. Whether man-made or Mother Nature teaching us a lesson in sharing, there will be global disasters that only a select few will survive. However not many of these pictures depict life as bleak as that portrayed in Snowpiercer, in which everyone and everything is confined to a speeding train.
Snowpiercer's passengers have been circling the world for 17 years, which is frozen beyond sustainable life. People have spent almost two decades living in squalor in the train's tail, while the upper classes enjoy every luxury they ever indulged in before the permafrost. But the lower class has had enough and a revolt is on the verge of erupting. Triggered by the removal of two small children, Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell) lead the battle to the front with the guidance of their mentor, Gilliam (John Hurt), a mystery co-conspirator, and the drug-addicted security designer (Kang-ho Song). Every gate brings them closer to Wilfred (Ed Harris), the locomotive's creator in every sense, and unlocks a new truth until the worst possible scenarios are confirmed.
Not exactly the typical blockbuster, this film is the ideal offering of smart, action-packed science fiction perfectly executed by South Korean director Joon-ho Bong. His first English feature displays all the talents of his previous pictures and then some. He balances the thoughtfulness of good sci-fi with a well-planned mystery and mesmerizing fight sequences. The battle between crudely armed passengers and the trains equipped security personnel is spellbinding as the advantage sways both ways based on numbers and lighting conditions, and includes a pause to acknowledge New Year's Day.
The film is beautifully shot, creating a deep contrast between the grime of the train’s rear and its occupants, and the glamour of its head. The very front of the transport is pristine, contributing to the celestial quality of the conductor. The wonders built into the locomotive are incredible. It is entirely self-sufficient. There is a greenhouse, aquarium, meat locker, classroom, beauty salon and nightclub. The train processes the snow and ice it breaks through to deliver water to the passengers. The engine is eternal and will run the machine indefinitely. But this marvelous invention comes at a heavy price. The punishment for disobedience is cruel and the “freeloaders” are treated as property.
The revelations made as the rebels push forward are by far the most striking element of the film – but also the most spoiler-filled so that is the most that can be said about them here. The stunning images are combined with excellent performances from every cast member including those mentioned as well as their female co-stars, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton and Ah-sung Ko. Evans deserves special mention as he proves he’s more than just a clever superhero, but also a contemplative leader with tired shoulders.
This film is one of the best and most arresting genre pictures of the year.
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell and Tilda Swinton