"Snowpiercer" begins playing theatrically in Houston starting today.
"Snowpiercer" was seemingly the coup de grace in what would otherwise be well-known South Korean directors taking over the American box office. 2013 was going to be the year that Park Chan-wook, Kim Jee-woon, and "Snowpiercer" director Bong Joon-ho all debuted their first English language films. While "Stoker" was a solid thriller, it didn't live up to some of Park Chan-wook's other works and "The Last Stand" was the biggest, dumbest, and most disappointing action film of the year revolving around the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
However, 2013 came and went without any sort of release scheduled for "Snowpiercer." The film debuted all over the world except for the United States throughout the second half of 2013. France has not only already released the film on Blu-ray, but has given it a magnificent ultimate edition release. Now that the film is finally being released in the US, is it worth the year long wait?
In 2014, an experiment thought to conquer global warming causes the world to suffer from another ice age. The human race nearly goes extinct, but the last survivors are forced onto the "rattling ark" locomotive known as the Snowpiercer: a gigantic train with a self-sustaining engine that travels the length of the world in one year's time. It's a rather simple premise with the poor individuals of society packed together like sardines in the back while the wealthy comfortably reside in the front where it's more luxurious and they control the food and water supply. The film jumps ahead 17 years to 2031 where a man named Curtis (Chris Evans) is enlisting all the help he can in order to get to the front of the train.
Much of "Snowpiercer" is devoted to Curtis building his revolution. He relies on the help of his best friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt), and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) who is just a mother trying to find her son. Tilda Swinton appears as the groveling Mason who works for Wilford (Ed Harris) and only wants what's best for herself. Also appearing in the film is Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsu, the man who designed all of the technology on the ship. Nam's awakening is an interesting one and his addiction to the drug Kronol pays off in a big way.
The sci-fi action film is a social commentary on humanity remaining in its proper place in order to keep things running like clockwork. When somebody steps out of line or throws a monkey wrench into the works, utter chaos ensues. Humans are designed to desire what they can't have and to dream about accomplishing what will likely never be attained. The journey Curtis sets out on is equivalent to a hobo running for president. Morality becomes a factor on more than one occasion as characters in the film do unspeakable things in order to merely just survive. Chris Evans has one particular scene near the end of the film that is exceptionally bleak.
The concept of "Snowpiercer" isn't entirely unique as it does feel familiar, but its enthralling presentation surrounds the film with fascinating characters and exquisite performances. The story of Curtis is like a tragic rags to riches story without the character having any opportunity to enjoy the rich aspect of it. The film implies that without rules and without order, humanity is doomed even if that order comes with an unethical price. While the science fiction and action elements of the film do add a sense of theatrics to the overall experience, it's as if the message "Snowpiercer" is attempting to portray makes a deeper impact than anything else the film has to offer. Maybe there always is a light at the end of the tunnel with a metaphorical self-sufficient train to get you there.