If you are a fan of the science fiction genre, then you probably became elated at the sight of the first trailer for Snowpiercer. Although the trailer itself does not reveal too much, it tells us genre nerds just enough of what we need to know to become intrigued. The set up is rather simple.
In a post-apocalyptic world, this little known phenomenon called “global warming” has taken mass effect, actually doing the exact opposite of warming the globe. The entire planet has essentially been plunged into a new ice age, now covered in a freezing layer of snow and ice, making it uninhabitable. Almost the entire population of Earth has been wiped out, and the few remaining survivors live aboard a futuristic train called…you guessed it…Snowpiercer.
DISCLAIMER: Spoilers ahead. Real life, major spoilers. Read at your own risk!
So now we have a somewhat intriguing, if not slightly lopsided, set up of our world. Then comes the deep stuff. Inside the train (the exact length of which is never specified) the varying cars are divided up by social class, the lowest of which reside in the tail-end of the train. Naturally, the privileged live towards the front of the train. The train is said to run on a “perpetual engine” that can never die, and said engine was created by the mysterious Wilford, a God-like figure whom is worshipped by those on the front of the train, and utterly loathed by those on the back. Social allegories galore!
One determined young man named Curtis (Chris Evans), living in the tail-end under the mentorship of an old man named Gilliam (John Hurt), is sick of his life feeding on nothing but gelatin-like protein bars (revealed to be made of something rather unmentionable). He wants what the privileged have (Sushi). He dreams of forcing his way to the front. He initiates a rebellion with the help of some of the tail-enders, consisting of an excellent ensemble cast that includes Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell and Ewen Bremner.
In order to make it through, they take into captivity Mason (Tilda Swinton), a bureaucratic cult-leader type who represents those from the front of the train and perhaps bows down the lowest to Wilford. As the biggest source of comic relief, she is by far one of the most dynamic and entertaining characters and Swinton’s performance made the film that much more watchable.
As the group of scrappy tail-enders force their way towards the front, we as the audience are immersed in some truly magnificent action sequences and cinematography. For such a contained setting, director Bong Joon-ho was able to get very creative with the camerawork. Not to mention the frozen world outside is very well done, creating a landscape that looks truly terrifying.
Upon reaching the very front of the train, where the perpetual engine presides, Curtis is finally able to confront Wilford (Ed Harris). Without spoiling too much, it is revealed that Curtis was essentially fooled into leading the rebellion, to be used as a sick way of population control for those in the tail-end. As stated by Wilford, natural selection doesn’t work quickly enough on the train.
I will force myself to stop at this point, as there are many more twists revealed within the final act. However, with all the aforementioned criticisms about a one-sided viewpoint being driven throughout the storyline of fairness and equality, the film is quite an experience in itself and it uses a lot of symbolism for life and redemption. As films go, it has a solid story and extremely well-written characters. Of course, the ensemble cast never ceases to entertain amidst the 2-hour-plus runtime. I never once found myself wondering when it would end.
All in all, “Snowpiercer” is definitely worth a view. Although it was only given a limited theatrical release, it will be available on Video On Demand as of this Friday, July 11th.