Snowpiercer Review

Release Date: 06/27/2014 (US)
Dir. Bong Joon-Ho
Starring: Chris Evans (Curtis), Ko Ah-Sung (Yona), Song Kang-Ho (Namgoong Minsoo), John Hurt (Gilliam), Ed Harris (Wilford), Jamie Bell (Edgar), Octavia Spencer (Tanya), Tilda Swinton (Mason), Allison Pill (Teacher)

Initial Thoughts

SnowpiercerScience Fiction can be a beautiful thing. However, the great can sometimes get buried under a barrage of mediocre. Snowpiercer sets itself apart from the mediocre as a truly entertaining science fiction film. It doesn’t tread new ground or manage to do things that other films don’t, but what it does do is accomplish its goals well. It’s a straight forward tale of the haves and the have nots following the people who are determined to change the stays quo. The journey that we are taken on is one that is both beautiful as it is terrible. So what do I think of this film, I think that it is one of the best science fiction movies that I’ve seen in a while, but that does not mean it is without fault. Some characters felt under developed, while others seemed to have sole purposes that were effective but left them feeling one note. At the end of the day, I would recommend that any fan of science fiction sees this movie.

Plot Summary
Curtis and the people of the tail car of the train are fed up. There had been previous revolts in the 17 years since the final passengers boarded the Snowpiercer after the CW-7 froze over the Earth killing the population. Tired of being subjugated and fed black jelly bars as their only sustenance, Curtis decides to lead a new revolt with Edgar at his side, and Gilliam as his advisor. Their plan is to break through the doors to get to a locksmith konole addict. Through a hostile attack they make it to Namgoong and his daughter Yona who request double the amount of konole for each door opened.

SnowpiercerAs the group moves through the train cars, each moving further from poverty look of the tail through the lavish gardens and party areas. At each stage things grew worse and members of the small advance team were picked off as more of the wealthy guards took out the people of the tail. Through a lot of luck, Curtis manages to make it too the front where he gets to speak to the revered Wilford. He is no more than a man who simply believes that the train maintains because of its balance and the people of the tail must remain there. Curtis is even offered the position of becoming the new head of the train, but he refused helping Namgoong and Yona blow train door to the outside open.
End Plot Summary

Snowpiercer is an interesting meld of the tropes between the apocalyptic genre and the dystopian genre. In this case we have a sense of apocalypse with the entire world having been destroyed by CW-7. No one is left and the people are forced to fight against the cold. All the while, the film maintains a dystopian society in which the middle class has fallen out entirely. Instead, we have the people of the front who live in decadence and continue to eat food like normal people. Then there are the people of the tail who eat black bars made of cockroaches and bugs. The melding of these two genres lends to a grim outlook for the characters from the outset.

SnowpiercerThings only get worse. There is a sense of morosity in the film. In its beginning we are indoctrinated into a dark world. A world in which the people of the tail are bullied and objectified. They are no more than pawns for the front. The people to make children that can be taken to make the train run manually. Yet, the people of the tail live their miserable lives with hopes of something better. Their hope in the darkness makes it even more devastating as we move further up the train. It becomes more and more clear that their situation is a manufactured one as others on the train not only live comfortably, but lavishly. It really drills in the truth when we hear the story Curtis tells in the final act. The people in the tail are expendable to everyone else, when all they want are freedoms.

SnowpiercerOne of the most exciting things about Snowpiercer is its ability to bring out a sense of old Science Fiction tales. Currently we’ve been living in an era in which science fiction films are entirely driven by the plot. However, older tales, while usually strongly plot driven, where actually driven even more by the way the characters reacted to the situation. In which case a science fiction film would bring you on a journey. A group of characters will be in one position and they must find a way to overcome that situation. There have been lesser films who evoked this sense of classic science fiction in which there is often no definitive answer as to what is the characters true outcome, like In Time, but Snowpiercer manages to do it right. Snowpiercer starts you off with one situation in which the characters want to be granted the right to no longer be abused. However, by the time the movie ends, everyone’s morals seem to have twisted and you are left with a very grim outcome.

As for the morality of the characters, it is highly questionable. Yes, the people of the tail are searching for a better life which isn’t something to be shunned. However, characters like Curtis and Gilliam throw a wrench into that system. There are honest good people like Tanya and Andrew were people who were desperately looking out for their kids who were desperately taken from them. While they shined in their desire to help the ones they loved, others didn’t have quite such a drive. Curtis wanted better, he seemed to want to redeem himself from what he did when he first got on the train as a 17-year old. His story reveals just how awful and amoral things were in the back of the train for some time. He did spend the years after the events of his story, attempting to make amends. However, then we learned of Gilliam’s involvement with all the torment. It became rather apparent that his morals as well we suspect. Time and time again in the movie we see that the people we are rooting for are’t even that savory of people. yet, they are less callous and more endearing than the villains.

SnowpiercerThe acting in the film was also particularly good. Chris Evans really stood out as Curtis. It was easy to see how conflicted he was as a character even before we knew what had happened to him in the past. There was a weight to his performance. That can’t be said for everyone as there were a few performances that were subpar, but it appears that correlates more to how fleshed out some of these characters were within the story.

As for the visual beauty of the film it was absolutely wonderful. yes there was a gritty and cramped feel that is natural for the people of the tail moving through a train. As they moved through the darkness of the tail further toward the front of the train with it’s decadence the visuals went further through. In fact, the closer they got to the front the more appealing it became. There were some unfortunate bits namely in the moments of slow motion. However, the slow motion with the fish butchers became more beautiful with the slow motion as you actually got to see what was going on and the choreography of the scene. The closer that Curtis and his crew got to the front the more spectacular the train cars became.

Final Thoughts

SnowpiercerSnowpiercer is a beautifully done piece of science fiction, that likely won’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. It transports you into a nearly unimaginable situation where people just want to live. The journey that the movie takes you on will rock. It will make you emotional and question who you are rooting for. It will unsettle you and make you wonder what you would do. It does what a science fiction film is supposed to do. And while you may be left a bit unsatisfied with the ending if you like closer, you likely won’t regret the journey or the action presented throughout.

View the movie’s gallery here. What did you think of the movie?

One thought on “Snowpiercer Review

  1. Pingback: Snowpiercer Gallery | So, I pondered...

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