Movie Review: Snowpiercer (2013)

Posted: March 21, 2015 in Drama
Tags: , ,


Seventy-nine world governments have sprayed the anti-global warming chemical CW7 into the atmosphere to cool the earth.  Everyone on earth has frozen to death, except for passengers on the passenger train the Snowpiercer. The train has been running for 18 years continuously. People in the back of the train are treated like chattel.  Soldiers protect Wilfred (Ed Harris) the creator of the train’s perpetual engine from the people in the back of the train Curtis (Chris Evans) and Gilliam (John Hurt) plan a revolution against Wilfred, and his minions.  Curtis is  joined in the battle by Tanya (Octavia Spencer) whose son Timmy (Marcanthonee Reies)  has been taken by the soldiers to the front of the train, under suspicious circumstances.  Curtis also bribes security expert Nam Minsoo (Kang Ho Song) and his daughter Yona (Ah-Sung Ko) with Kronole a hallucinogenic drug.  Curtis needs Nam to open the locks that separate the compartments of the train.  Do Curtis, Nam, Yona and Tanya make it to the front of the train?  What has happened to Timmy?

There are many familiar elements to this story, it’s a dystopian society on a train, people are given a mind altering drug to keep them content, much like Soma in the book Brave New World, and there’s a definite social strata where the poor are given questionable looking gelatinized protein bars reminiscent of Soylent Green, while the people near the front of the train dine on specially bred sushi.  The train is certainly a metaphor for society, but because the director and writer is Korean, I believe the train is a metaphor for North Korea.  The lower strata of society is left to starve while the upper classes enjoy the finer things in life, and the creator of the train is deified and followed with an intense, almost religious fervor. A lot of the story is far-fetched, how can a train run for 18 years, in a constant snowstorm?  How can plants and fish be grown inside of a train?  There are many plot holes, and the viewer must leave logic at the door in order to get to the ending, but the ending is worth all the suspension of disbelief that goes on beforehand.  It is an extremely violent film with a lot of close combat, so this is definitely not a movie for kids, or adults who don’t like excessive violence, but the metaphor is an interesting one, and there’s some global warming skepticism thrown in to boot, which will no doubt please some political conservatives.

The acting is good.  Chris Evans brings a lot of intensity to the role.  If I have a problem with Evans’ performance, it’s that his performance is a one-note performance which lacks nuance.  John Hurt and Tilda Swinton are wasted as Evans’ cohort and a mid-level conduit to Wilfred.  Octavia Spencer basically plays a mother whose grief for her missing son drives her forward. The Korean actors, Kang Ho Song and Ah-Sung Ko are very good as a pair of drug addicted wild-cards, the viewer never fully knows where their allegiances lie, and if their loyalty is up for sale .Ed Harris plays a role very similar to the role he played in The Truman Show, the train is his world and he likes being in control of it.  He’s good at these kind of roles and brings a certain serenity to the madness around him.

The movie is too long, director Joon Ho-Bong could have cut about a half hour out of his script to improve the pacing.  There is nothing visually arresting about this movie, and the actors are mostly veteran actors so I doubt that Bong gave them different readings on how to play certain scenes.

Snowpiercer:  A lot of tough sledding, but a nice payoff.


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