Snowpiercer (2014)

Snowpiercer Film

Much like the train we inhabit for Bong Joon-Ho’s English language directorial debut, the direction in which “Snowpiercer” travels is determined, but at its core, the journey is one that has no control. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that the trip isn’t one hell of a ride. Brilliantly choreographed and unrelenting action highlights this resplendent visual feast that has the brains to match, for the most part. With brutal violence and an array of contrasting, stimulating colours, one can’t help but push the chaos and in-your-face obviousness of “Snowpiercer” to the back burner and just enjoy the trek.

Bong Joon-Ho has been and continues to be a filmmaker whom I admire and look to for inspiration. The director of numerous triumphs such as true-crime thriller “Memories of Murder,” modern monster masterpiece “The Host,” and psychological drama “Mother.” Bong Joon-Ho finally makes his much anticipated debut in English language cinema with “Snowpiercer,” much like his South Korean counterpart Chan Wook-Park did in 2013 with “Stoker.” This latest offering from Bong Joon-Ho features an all-star cast comprised of newcomers and veterans to Ho’s brand of film. Chris Evans, Kang-Ho Song, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, and John Hurt lead the way.

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In the not too distant future, humankind unleashes what is believed to be a chemical remedy to global warming into the atmosphere. When this experiment backfires and sends our planet into an unliveable state, the few who remain seek refuge on the ‘Snowpiercer.’ A train powered by a perpetual motion engine that circles the globe once every year. Designed by the prophetic Wilford, this train is the last livable place on Earth, running on the same, worldwide track for eternity.

On board the train, what remains of our population has descended in to madness and chaos. The rich, privileged first class passengers live in luxury and comfort at the front of the train, while the rest find home at the tail where food and space is sparse. In order to obtain better living conditions and equality, the tail section revolts in an attempt to take over the engine and overthrow the current status in which the train functions.

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Taking into account that “Snowpiercer” was an adaptation, the original format being a graphic novel. A lot of the film’s blatant depiction of its themes and cartoonish violence and characters is understandable. That being said, at its worst, “Snowpiercer” is a bewildering, over-stuffed allegory that really suffers from pacing problems. Which is kind of intriguing seeing as originally, Bong Joon-Ho was not given control over the final cut of the film. This changed rather quickly though with the outcry of infuriated fans, much like myself and Bong Joon-Ho once again took full control of his film. However, whether or not this is the truth or simply a gambit I find to be in question, seeing as the film itself feels as if there was a lot more character and story development left on the cutting room floor.

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On the flip side, for all of its faults, “Snowpiercer” is a visually entertaining and mentally challenging flick. And apart from a rather lacklustre climax, there isn’t a single moment in its just over two-hour run-time in which boredom will overtake you. While extremely violent, “Snowpiercer” is not excessively gory. It tries and at times succeeds in portraying compassion and brotherhood over war and never sells the evilness of humanity as our undoing.

In his transition, Bong Joon-Ho hasn’t lost any part of his infallible repertoire. If anything, “Snowpiercer” is his most ambitious, technically masterful film to date. As we progress through each car, we are treated to a completely different spectrum of colour ranging from achromatic to vibrant and picturesque. The battle sequences are captured with the utmost intensity and emotion and the characters never take a backseat to this visual spectacle. While undoubtedly not Bong Joon-Ho’s strongest outing, “Snowpiercer” will forever remain an achievement on his impressive resume.

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While I was, without question, rather anxiously excited awaiting Bong Joon-Ho’s next project, I didn’t become totally smitten until I heard that Kang-Ho Song would be co-starring. Having lead a few of my personal favourites: “Thirst,” “The Good, The Bad, The Weird,” “Memories of Murder,” and “The Host,” you can see why I was so ripe with anticipation. In “Snowpiercer,” Kang-Ho Song is as charismatic, intimidating, and darkly hilarious as ever. While the script didn’t really allow for his character to outstretch his wings, so to speak, there’s no denying that Song did everything he could to bring this mad, drug-addicted genius to life.

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Leading alongside Kang-Ho Song is Captain America himself, Chris Evans. Having previously been featured in such personal favourites as “The Iceman” and “Sunshine,” I was sure that alongside Song, Evans wouldn’t disappoint. Evans continues his ascent to stardom with another heartfelt, invested turn, this time as the leader of the tail section revolution with a dreary, ruthless past. One thing that has become very apparent as of late, and that “Snowpiercer” exemplifies, is that Evans has the ability to deal out heroic, blockbuster performances as well as dramatic stunners.

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In supporting roles, Swinton is nothing short of impeccable. Decisively devilish and so easy to hate, Swinton does a phenomenal job as an antagonist who’s death the viewer can easily enjoy. Jamie Bell continues to earn my respect and trust. After surprising performances in “Filth” and the recent “Nymphomaniac,” Bell’s performance in “Snowpiercer” is another I can sink my teeth into. Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, and Ed Harris are also worth noting here. While easily lost in the background, their brief moments on screen are strong enough to dazzle and provoke.

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While not the game-changer I was anticipating. “Snowpiercer” is still an impressive feat that all involved can be proud of. It’s as entertaining as any big-budgeted Hollywood action flick and much more rewarding. It’ll turn its fair share of casual filmgoers away with its bleak, disturbing, and violent content, but for those who can stand “Snowpiercer” at its most repugnant, this is one train ride they won’t soon forget.

Snowpiercer: 8 out of 10.

About Joseph@thecinemamonster

Aspiring writer who absolutely adores film and television. thecinemamonster.com

Posted on March 25, 2014, in Action and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 49 Comments.

  1. How come I have never heard of this until now. Thank you so much for mentioning this. It’s too bad the pacing isnt great, but I liked reading the character descriptions. Especially Swinton. I like it when she plays a villain. Great post

    • Thanks Vern! I believe it’ll get its wide release in the States near the end of June. So happy I could bring it to your attention. The more I think on it, the more the film grows on me. The characters are extremely vivid, with broad personalities, quite intriguing.

  2. Been waiting for this to be released. Thanks for this, Joseph.

  3. I’ve never heard of this either. Where are you finding all of these?

  4. Sounds like my kinda film! Been looking forward to this and it looks like it doesn’t disappoint. Really enjoyed reading this Joseph.

  5. Awesome post. Never heard of it but it’s something I look forward to seeing. Thanks for the head’s up.

  6. Where did you see this? Don’t have a clue when its out in the UK :(

  7. Same here, I never heard of it…sounds interesting, I will look out for it. Cool to see Pine in a different type of role.

  8. This sounds like a really interesting premise, will need to check it out! Great review Joseph.

    Adam.

  9. Great review, I’m interested in checking out this movie and the cast looks good too.

  10. Been quietly keeping my eye on this one. The cast look great and I’m glad it’s turned out to be a decent film. Nice review mate.

  11. I knew this was out mostly because Marco Beltrami did the music for it. I’m surprised there is no mention of the music. Does it just blend in so much with the film that you don’t really notice it?

    • To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the music. That being said, it could mean the soundtrack just blended in too well or that it wasn’t all that memorable. I’d need to see it again before judging the score. Sorry :).

      • From what I’ve heard in the soundtrack album it doesn’t surprise me that you missed it. I’m going to be checking out the movie when I can so maybe I’ll be able to notice it better. I’ve always paid more attention to the music in movies than the average viewer.

      • I do love a good soundtrack, as much as the next guy. Try to pay attention to every films score when I’m viewing it. Maybe because the action and visuals are so relentless and stunning that the score just fades in the background.

  12. Fantastic review, Joe. Really want to check this one out ever since I heard about it. Love the concept and the cast.

  13. I love your writing. Definitely I’m a fan. Great post!

  14. Been waiting for this film to come out for a while now! Did not even realize it had been released in some markets already, thought it was still on the festival circuit. Regardless, cannot wait to see it.

  15. Nice review, Joseph! I’d been wondering about this one–particularly because I did really like The Host. Too bad we’re not getting it here until June. Ick. :(

  16. I saw the trailer for this movie a while back and was mildly interested in it, I guess I will give it a try now.

  17. WHOAH!!! So lucky that you’ve seen this already Joseph! I’m so jealous, I’ve been blogging about this a long time ago but still we don’t have this film in the US (darn Weinsteins!!). This looks phenomenal, I’m most curious to read this: “…Snowpiercer exemplifies, is that Evans has the ability to deal out heroic, blockbuster performances as well as dramatic stunners.” I’ve come to respect Evans more and more and having just seen The Winter Soldier last night, he certainly displayed dramatic chops there as well. Great stuff, man!

    • I know, I’m very fortunate ;). It’ll be released sooner than you think! You’re so lucky to have seen Captain America already! I’m dying to check it out. So happy to hear he continues to provide the dramatic balance to his heroic roles. He does it so well in Snowpiercer as well. He’s such an underrated talent, so happy you agree :).

      • You’re in the UK right Joseph? Are you in London? Yeah I think we may get it June, man that is still a looong time! As the only Avenger member I’ve ever met, I’ve come to like Evans more. I agree he’s underrated as ppl probably think of him as a pretty boy but he’s actually more capable than ppl think! Great review, I think you’d enjoy Evans in The Winter Soldier, and the film’s great too IMO.

      • No Ruth, I am in Toronto, Canada :). I believe it hits stateside end of June, like you said. You’ve met Evans! So lucky, I’m super jealous lol. Definitely thought of as more of a visual assets, when in reality he should be just as recognized for his dramatic turns. I can’t wait to see Winter Solider now, thanks for the affirmation!

  18. Victor De Leon

    Going to watch this over the weekend. Great job on the review! Glad you liked it, now I’m really stoked for it. Thanks!

  19. Another great review, man. I’m intrigued by this one, I have to say. Originally I thought it was going to be a stinker but you’ve given it enough of a seal of approval that I’ll give it a go.

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