Title: Snowpiercer (2014)
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Runtime: 126 minutes
The other day on Twitter, Ashe mentioned that a new film he wanted to see was getting a limited theatrical release. For the first time in ages, this film was playing closer to him than anywhere near me, so I tossed out any idea I may have had of seeing it. Then, on the way home from a trip to Connecticut, I decided to look it up again. I got lucky: Snowpiercer was playing only two miles out of my way, and would start right when I could get there. I took it as a sign, and made my way to the theatre. I had no idea where this train ride was going to take me, and, frankly, after all is said and done, I’m still not entirely sure what to think about it.
Seventeen years ago Earth experienced its second ice age. Everything on the planet died, and now, if one went outside, he or she would instantly freeze. The only survivors left live on a train. This train constantly runs, and each car is a different experience. The front is where Wilfred runs the engine. He’s basically the “leader”. The back of the train is essentially the slums. This is where Curtis (Chris Evans) lives, and where he is planning to revolt. See, the people live on protein bars, which are rationed out daily, and used for bartering. It’s their only source of food, while the rich – as the story on the train is told – in the upper cars get to dine on steaks.
The first problem I have with Snowpiercer is that it relies entirely on the viewer simply believing everything that these characters say, even when it makes no sense, and causes plot holes. Over think Snowpiercer and you’ll soon realize that the plot holes are actually going to be the twists for the big finale, and where does that leave you?
Tilda Swinton has to be the craziest actress ever. She picks the weirdest roles, and just delivers the crazy on every level. She plays the middleman for Wilfred when he needs to convey information to the slum train car. She controls the “police”, and runs a tight ship. Everyone really just goes for it in this film, and I don’t know where Chris Evans learned to act between Not Another Teen Movie and this (he’s just okay in the Captain America films), but kudos to his acting coach because he delivers a great, emotional performance here.
Joon-ho Bong writes and directs Snowpiercer, which is based off of a graphic novel. I know of him from the Korean monster flick, The Host, not to be confused with the Stephanie Meyers Invasion of the Body Snatchers rip-off. I didn’t care for The Host that much, and never understood the whole buzz around it. One thing is for sure, though: he is definitely a fan of Terry Gilliam because as we advance in each car, we get a new, wild theme, which almost makes the middle act of the film feel like a fever dream.
Bong delivers some fast-paced, crazy action, and the finale uses a few great long distance shots to show the action happening in the background. Sadly, the CGI isn’t up to snuff, and a number of things look a little too fake, with the train being the main culprit. I know that Bong fought with the Weinstein Company over edits they wanted to make, which would have brought the film down to a 100-minute runtime. While I’m glad he won out in the end, the film could have used editing to help some of the pacing issues in the middle act. The action comes to a dead halt at times for two characters to have a nice, long-winded heart to heart.
While Snowpiercer offers a few interesting ideas, the problems all stem from the fact that if the viewer over thinks anything, it falls apart. This is a shame because if a few lines had been changed a number of twists wouldn’t have been so obvious. After the film ended, I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. Now, though, I’m fairly certain I enjoyed it for the most part, but I don’t think Snowpiercer offers anything that would make me want to revisit it again in the future.
Chris was raised on horror films, which gave him a deep love for the genre, especially its most quirky and offbeat titles (like A Nightmare on Elm Street 2). This love quickly turned into an obsession for cinema in 1997, when he decided he needed to see every major theatrical release. Video games (JRPGs), reading (anything but fantasy), and reality television (Survivor) are just some of his other passions. He’s been with Cinefessions since 2013, and has been writing reviews all over the internet for the past twelve years.
Good review Chris. It’s the type of movie that isn’t afraid to go the distance with its strange premise and keep on moving.