Directed by Bong Joon-Ho
Action/Thriller/Sci Fi, 126′
Bong Joon-Ho’s latest masterpiece takes you on a wild emotional ride that will leave no one questioning the rave reviews and critical adoration.
To contextualise, I had accidently read some spoilers about ‘Snowpiercer’ on the Internet before getting a chance to watch the movie — not enough to give the plot away, but enough to know the film will be an emotional and intellectual assault on the senses.
I was not disappointed.
For those familiar with seminal Korean director Bong Joon-Ho, you know his movies are — at the risk of cliché — emotional roller coasters. Strongly detailed, beautifully rendered, with plenty of black humour and sudden twists in moods and tone, ‘Snowpiercer’ is no exception.
Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-Ho, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swanson, with John Hurt, Ed Harris and a whole slew of immensely talented actors from Hollywood and Asia, ‘Snowpiercer’ is nominally a science-fiction film about a train that contains humanity’s last survivors and is their only hope of living without freezing to death.
There is an elitist class system, with the privileged rich inhabiting the front of the train and the poor at the back. The poor are given scraps for food, beaten and used for whatever the rich deem necessary — until Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a revolution towards the front of the train. The objective: reach the engine.
What follows is, to repeat the cliché before, a roller coaster. That is not talking about the ones where the only thrills come from how high they take you — this is talking about ‘The Smiler’ level type of roller coasters, the ones that twist and turn so fast, you leave your stomach somewhere on the tracks.
Bong accomplishes this with a superb plot and breath-taking cinematography throughout. The world of ‘Snowpiercer’ is rooted in reality, and whilst the train represented in the film is somewhat fantastical, the film manages to present a space that is easy to imagine inhabiting.
The weird and wonderful characters feel just as real as the train. Bong strips away artifice, paring the characters down to essences of humanity — and how they would react in disasters. Fair warning: this is no Hollywood disaster movie where one hero overcomes all odds to save everyone.
You might find someone to root for, you might not. Special mention must be made for Grey, played beautifully by Luke Pasqualino, a performance which manages to portray everything the character feels through nuanced expression, and Pasqualino pulls this off effortlessly.
One element that stands out in particular is the use of music and sound design, creating several scenes that are eerily dreamlike and yet feel shockingly realistic. It can be a little jarring, but in the best way possible.
The almost painfully realistic cinematography combined with the gripping storyline will draw you into the world of ‘Snowpiercer’ and, quite frankly, the more sensitive viewer may want to leave at several points; but like any great roller coaster ride you have been strapped in and it is not going to let you out until the very end, when you stagger away, weak-kneed and shaking, with tears and snot running down your face. If it does not, well, you are a much stronger person than me.
If you love high-octane rides, beautiful cinematography, compelling characters, wonderfully detailed stories, or if you love Bong Joon-Ho’s previous work, then ‘Snowpiercer’ is the perfect film for you.