South Korea | USA | France | Czech Republic 2013
Starts April 3, 2014
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Writing credits: Joon-ho Bong and Kelly Masterson; Jacques Lob & Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette 3-volume comic novel
Cast: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, Kang-ho Song, Ko Asung, Ewen Bremner, Luke Pasqualino, Clark Middleton
Length: 126 minutes
Seventy-nine countries release experimental CW-7 into the atmosphere to offset global-warming: consequential, an uninhabitable frozen world. Seventeen-years pass. Aboard the massive Snowpiercer the survivors constantly circle the globe. Everyone has their preordained positions: At the head of the 650-meter (2,133 feet) train is the genius Wilford (Harris) in his perpetual-motion engine; at the end are the masses guided by Gilliam (Hurt). Wilford controls via Mason (Swinton, again unrecognizably made up) and contingent; microbalance is everything. Subsisting on protein bars and living in over-crowded filth, Curtis (Evans) leads a revolution; revelations await the intense rebels in every car as they inch their way toward the engine. Now a war prisoner Nam (Kang-ho Song) initially set up the train’s security; he has a futuristic mentality and a daughter (Ko Asung) he loves dearly.
Inspired by Le Transperceneige, a French sci-fi graphic novel—fiction in comic-strip format—director Joon-ho Bong’s dynamic, dystopian, visually stunning film mesmerizes. Probing societal hierarchy the extremes are exaggerated and family is extended. Comics are synonymous with lots of action – Snowpiercer doesn’t disappoint. The first bloody skirmish is a ballet of disparate images, slow-mo action, sound design, and music set against the blindingly white terrain flashing by outside. The cast skillfully portrays their fleshed-out characters in well thought-out scenes, which US audiences regrettably may not see. The Weinstein Company—own distribution rights in North America and renowned for arbitrarily hacking foreign films—plan to cut 20 minutes, i.e. the persona and dumb-down the film with opening and closing voice-overs resulting in another mediocre Hollywood action film. Pity since Bong’s film necessitates paying attention: it seems a puzzle but the answers are here. ( )
The time is the future and the world is a frozen mass of ice and snow. The few remaining members of humanity are trapped forever in a train which has circled the earth for eighteen years. If this introduction catches your imagination then this is a movie for you.
A megalomaniac called Wilford (Harris) is the owner of the train and the person responsible for keeping it going. He is also helped cause the global warming which made the earth become a snowy wasteland. There are twenty carriages on the train but the bulk of the people are crammed into the back one and are condemned to suffer unspeakable cruelties, including systematic torture, while wealthier ones live in comparative luxury at the front. Why isn’t everybody evenly dispersed throughout the train? Well, the movie couldn’t have been made is the answer The scene is set for a peasants’ revolt, or a good triumphing-over-evil sort of movie and it will be played out over two long hours and six long minutes.
Spartacus – sorry- Curtis (Evans) is the worthy though reluctant leader of the oppressed masses, ably supported by Edgar (Bell) who was born on the train and Tanya ( Spenser). Gilliam (Hurt) urges Curtis to break through the iron doors between the carriages to reach the engine and its driver. Gilliam is too old and ill to do it himself, being “a shadow of the shadow of my former self.” Sit back and prepare yourself for violence and mayhem for the rest of the movie.
There have been failed uprisings in the past but the present one is precipitated by the cruel actions of Mason (Swinton) who does Wilford’s dirty work for him. She enters the carriage to carry out a so-called medical inspection of the children and picks out two to leave their parents and go with her. Tanya’s boy and the son of Andrew, who has already been tortured, are the unlucky children selected and their loss is the catalyst for a new assault. Brute force isn’t enough to succeed and Curtis must first find and enlist the help of Namsoog Mingoo (Song Kang-Ho) who, in turn, won’t co-operate without the help of his daughter Yona (Ko Asung.) Father and daughter are addicted to a drug made from industrial waste and are unable to function without it. After a lot of noise and a great deal of fuss Namsoong hands over the keys which unlock the carriages and the revolt can proceed. Mason reappears and, using a magnificent Yorkshire accent and a sporting a memorable set of false teeth, orders the guards to shoot those who disobey her orders. Well, the train rattles on, the frozen wasteland continues and the merciless violence becomes ever more brutal. If you are stay in your seat until the bitter end of the movie then your reward will be a silly and sentimental finale.
Director Bong Joon-Ho has spent forty million euros making Snowpiercer, the most ever spent on a Korean movie. Despite the wonderful creation of Mason and the fine acting of just about everybody there is nothing new in this movie. Why won’t somebody make a sci-fi movie where the future holds a promise of happiness and harmony rather than one of horror? If someone did, then it might be one to enjoy.