Spoil-Free Review: Snowpiercer
So I finally saw Snowpiercer, a week after its limited US release date and a year after its Korean release. You can blame this bullshit on the Weinstein Company’s attempt to cut 20 minutes of the film (having seen this movie I’m not exactly sure what 20 minutes they tried to remove but I’ve been desensitized by the years of rap music, violent video games, and other such youth hooligan activities). But I chose to blame it on Michael Bay, whose ridiculous bullshit opened alongside Snowpiercer limiting it’s already limited release. And once again the white Tyler Perry strikes again!
What is the best way to summarize Snowpiercer? Snowpiercer is a movie about a bunch of people who just weren’t ready. Earth wasn’t ready for the new ice age, the occupants of the Snowpiercer weren’t ready for a post-apocalyptic nightmare, and when the shit really hits the fan no one was even remotely ready to catch it.
I came in to this expecting to be blown away, and I was. It is the rare combination of a superstar cast giving stellar performances combined with one of the best production teams we’ve seen thus far this year. Originally I was not excited about Chris Evans playing the lead role. Admittedly this is when I thought the lead role was still that of Proloff. But I was still weary of Captain America fitting in with the terrifying madness that is Wilford’s train. He manages to carry the role well and while he is not the stand out of the bunch he is hardly a detraction from the film. The cast consists of Kang-ho Song playing a drug addled engineering genius with an equally intriguing daughter played by Ah-sung Ko, strangely the only two Korean actors in the film. Ed Harris, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, and Ewen Bremner also contribute excellent performances. But the most impressive performance comes from Tilda Swinton the comically inept villain throughout most of the movie. The actors’ stellar performances add to the dreary atmosphere of the post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, along with the dark lighting and slow plotting pacing–like the entire time the film is sneaking up behind you in a dark room.
The real triumph here is by Joon-ho Bong, the Korean writer and director who was so inspired by Jacques Lob’s Le Transperceneige series of graphic novels. And here is a good moment to address the graphic novel from which this film draws its inspiration. Le Transperceneige or Snowpiercer is a French graphic novel about the last surviving members of humanity after a failed attempt at rectifying global warming sends the Earth into a super ice age. the graphic novel is violent, dark, at times challenging, and beautifully illustrated. The problem is Le Transperceneige is also sexist, full of plotholes, and while the concept is brilliant the plot is oddly presented. Luckily for us Snowpiercer (the film) is violent, dark, challenging, and beautifully. It also sports amazing female characters, the plot is both brilliantly paced and constantly enthralling, and has a distinctly iron-tight sci-fi concept (there are a few unanswered questions but unlike the graphic novel the important ones are answered and answered satisfyingly). If you read the graphic novels and loved them, as I did, for their violence and brilliant conceptual execution Bong will not disappoint. If you were disappointed in the larger plot aspects of the graphic novel as well as the simplistic and offensive representation of its female characters Bong will come through for you as well. I loved Snowpiercer Volume 1 (haven’t gotten around to the second one yet) but I was not sad to see Bong went somewhere else with his film. The story is brilliant: the uprising of the plebs, relegated to the back end of an ever traveling train where social hierarchy and the wealth gap is devastating and tangible; the closer you are to the engine the better you have it. Bong paces the film brilliantly, unafraid to spend 5-10 minutes on a simple piece of dialogue or pause for what seems like an aeon to let a moment sink in. My favorite example of this is during one of the most exciting gun fights I’ve ever seen Bong takes 10 heart-pounding seconds right in the middle to focus on the slow motion movement of a single snowflake. Shot in basically a long corridor its amazing how beautiful it still manages to be. As the film makes its way through the train, the juxtaposition of the increasingly gorgeous scenery astounds alongside the increasingly dark and ugly story.
Who should see this movie?
If you love dark movies, this is for you. It’s a movie, grounded maybe a little too much in realism, by the third minute of the movie you come to the reluctant realization there is no way you’re getting a wedding and a basket of laughs as the credits roll. Curtis’s turning point is one of the more shocking movie moments I’ve seen thus far this year. But the choice he makes, make perfect sense in this world that Bong has created, where kill or be killed is not just a saying its a way of life. It’s always hard to make a fallible protagonist sympathetic, heroic, and likable but Bong manages exceptionally. And the train’s back-story is… well fuck.
Do you love lots of violence? The movie is about a revolution where the rebels from the back of a train have to get to the front of the train, everyone trying to kill them is in there way and there’s no way to get around—so violence you shall have. Its got its moments of laughs–astoundingly, often more out of relief than anything else.
If you’re a movie buff whose favorite part of films like Godfather, 12 Angry Men, and Pulp Fiction was the sheer genius of the men behind the camera, this is the movie for you.
Snowpiercer is a simplistic masterpiece whose over two hour run-time zooms by due to excellent pacing and daring action sequences. It’s more predictable than you might like but most of the key moments will catch you entirely by surprise. You will love the characters, even the ones you hate.
Go see it because it’s your job to send the message that Michael Bay should not be allowed to keep churning out shit and making millions.
Acting (Main Cast): 8/10
Acting (Supporting Cast): 10/10
Action Sequences: 10/10
Sci-Fi Set Up: 8/10
Overall Rating: 8.85/10 (amazing)
Pop Culture Che Suggests: 5/5 (The theater is waiting for you, and see it a bunch of times the payoffs will be just as high the second and third time around)