“Everyone has their preordained position,” says one of the lead characters in the new dystopian thriller, “Snowpiercer.” What happens, however, when people begin to question what is preordained? “Snowpiercer” brings that question to the forefront and provides some very thought-provoking answers. Directed by Joon-ho Bong with screenplay by Joon-ho Bong and Kelly Masterson, based on the French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, “Snowpiercer” is a South Korean-American film which had a rocky road making its way to American theatres, but thankfully is now available to most of us.
“Snowpiercer” is so much more than yet another doomsday, end-of-the-world film. The manner in which “Snowpiercer” addresses the bleakness that is the film’s today and the unknown of tomorrow is what makes the film so unique. “Snowpiercer is intelligent, cleverly different with traces of humor and mercifully free of special effects and overwhelming overwrought music.
The film begins on July 1, 2014, when an experiment to fight global warming goes horribly wrong, causing the world to freeze. Those who manage to survive are now passengers on one gigantic train, the Snowpiercer, whose engine keeps the train circling the globe. We come to know the passengers 17 years later. The train is divided up by classes and as one might expect, those in the front are the rich and powerful, while the back houses the poor. The differences between the various cars are staggering. Living conditions and the numbers in the cars are vastly different. While some passengers are eating real food, those in “steerage” are making do with disgusting tasting protein bars. Over the years there have been quickly quashed rebellions, but in 2031 the rear-based passengers have finally had enough and mean business. Under the leadership of Curtis (Chris Evans) and his good friend, Edgar (Jamie Bell), those passengers decide to make their way forward through the train for a better life, regardless of the consequences. Naturally this is not taken kindly by the powers that be. Representing the wealthy is a weirdly bespectacled Mason (Tilda Swinton, who is beyond creepy in manner and appearance. As the rebellion continues, we meet a variety of passengers in varying degrees of leadership positions and learn much more about the early life of the tail-dwellers.
“Snowpiercer” has a very diverse, unusually talented cast of actors. As Curtis, Chris Evans has a chance to shine and he is terrific. He really inhabits his role and truly seems every inch the leader. His character has a horrific back-story and he is masterful in telling it. Jamie Bell is very convincing as Curtis’ friend who has a very unusual history. Octavia Spencer is fabulous as a mother of one of the young children. Tilda Swinton is fantastic as the very unusual Mason and brings just the right touch of humor to her role. “The Newsroom’s” Alison Pill is very good as one of the spookiest teachers you’ll ever meet and Ed Harris and John Hurt are great as leaders during different periods of time. Just sensational are South Korean actors Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, as the father and daughter team with many secrets up their sleeves.
As noted earlier, “Snowpiercer” raises interesting questions. Just how far would you go to survive? What happens when people question authority? Is life pre-ordained? “Snowpiercer” doesn’t necessarily answer these questions for us, but it does give one something to think about…while entertaining at the same time. That’s not an easy accomplishment, but “Snowpiercer” pulls it off. “Snowpiercer” is a very unusual film and one that you should definitely make time to see.