Summers at the movie usually go the same way: a collection of action films and kid flicks monopolize the market while the occasional horror or comedy fare takes what’s left. Beyond that, niche films like documentaries and international and indie films get glazed over. And each year, a few of these niche films burst through; some critically, others commercially. What they lack in blockbuster budgets or A-list stars is made up for with smart stories and characters that really connect with something to say. The summer of 2014 has had a few films worth of this challenge. One such film is “Snowpiercer.”
Set seventeen years in the future, Earth is an unforgiving, frozen terrain. To battle global warming, a chemical was realized into the atmosphere to correct the damage done. Unfortunately, the agent plunged the world into an ice age. The human race has been reduced significantly. Survivors live on a train powered by some unknown perpetual motion. It will continue to run with minimum assistance from its passengers. In this dystopian world, a rigid class structure is enforced. The privileged reside in the forward compartments, while the less desired reside in the tail.
The tail is where we find the story begins. Curtis (Chris Evans in a role that proves his abilities beyond the Marvel canon) and the members are awaiting signs of when to revolt. With his friend Edgar (Jamie Bell) and wise elder Gilliam (John Hurt), the world of the impoverished rear cars plan to overtake the engine and upset the status quo. Along the way, they enlist the help of drug-addicted man who can rig the doors to open, allowing the mission to continue. As they, fight for control of the train, we learn about the society that created such an environment and its future.
Despite having a mostly English speaking class, this is still a film made for the international crowd. With a cast to embrace this, director Joon-ho Bong creates a global story that addresses class, race, and the propaganda that surrounds a beloved figure. Starting off with a solid and efficient exposition, “Snowpiercer” goes straight into the action. But rather than over-the-top explosions and gratuitous bloodshed, each move the citizens of the tail make feel justified. These underdogs are merely looking for a richer and more fulfilling existence. This feeling is aggravated as they see more of the luxuries and simplicities the other citizens have wont to enjoy.
Anchored by a very engaging and layered performance by Chris Evans, “Snowpiercer” never fails to keep the story moving, even as it reveals more about the backstory of these characters and this train of salvation. If more action films embraced character and story development like this, movies would become more engaging and interesting. Movies don’t require anything on the viewers end; just a willing audience. Films like “Snowpiercer,” however, tap into our thoughts and emotions about our society. Experiencing this film is a great reflection and challenge to the current lines that separate cultures. Definitely recommended. 4 out of 5 stars
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