Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong, 2013)
Considering that this was initially released pretty much nowhere in Australia (Thank you Cinema Nova for being the only place to show it in Melbourne), you might assume that Snowpiercer is a wacky, out-there, too-crazy-to-comprehend type of film, but you would be wrong. While it is a little outside of the mainstream, this is decent science-fiction with a relatively easy storyline to follow, with a few known faces thrown in for good measure. I hadn’t even heard of this film until it was reviewed on At the Movies (Thank you Margaret and David for alerting us of what’s on beyond the megaplex crap). Snowpiercer has been a critical hit overseas, but its unusual marketing strategy has meant it has been largely missed in Australia (Thank you Harvey Weinstein for being a dick). Thankfully, its positive reviews have resulted in it being released in additional cinemas in the weeks following its opening.
In Snowpiercer – based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob – a failed climate change experiment in 2014 (Omg that’s THIS YEAR!) has wiped out almost the entire world population, with the exception of the commuters on the Snowpiercer, a train that travels the now-frozen globe in an infinite loop. A class system has emerged on board, with those at the front living a life of luxury, while those at the back live on questionable ‘protein blocks’ and have a generally shitty quality of life. Seventeen years later, Curtis (Chris Evans) leads the last carriage in rebellion in an attempt to get to the front of the train. Rich themes regarding class warfare and survival are present, with those in the lower ranks taking desperate measures to get out of their hell hole, and those at the front trying desperately to maintain the status quo. While there are some questions that remain unanswered, this is no Lost (although there is a polar bear), and viewers who don’t require spoon-feeding will likely find the film satisfying. It will likely benefit from repeat viewings.
Snowpiercer gets VIOLENT and those who are squeamish are maybe better off sitting this one out. This violence is necessary though as it only serves to show the desperate lengths that human beings will go to to survive. Plus, it could have been worse. Some have complained about the lack of flashbacks to the early horrendous days of the train’s journey. Instead we get this information verbally from a traumatised Curtis, and it is possibly even more powerful as a result. This balance means that Snowpiercer can’t really be accused of gratuitous violence, although there’s one scene that’s pretty full on.
Outside of the violence, Snowpiercer is a beautiful film to watch. Though there obviously isn’t enough time to show the entire train, we are witness to many magical sights as we progress from the tail end up to the front of the train. There are dramatic shifts in colour and vibrancy, although even the tail end is a delight in its own way. The entire film feels other-worldly in the best possible way, and when the lights come up after the film ends it feels strange to be in such a comparatively ordinary setting.
Captain America, is that you? Chris Evans is almost unrecognisable here, though it’s probably the beard he’s hiding behind. And his lack of access to pretty much any grooming products (let’s face it – Captain America would spend a shitload of time in front of the mirror). I wouldn’t have guessed that Chris Evans could impress so much but he proves himself here. Tilda Swinton is creepy as hell as Minister Mason, which isn’t particularly unusual for Tilda Swinton but she’s ESPECIALLY terrifying here with her Thatcherisms. There are further names in the cast including Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris, which will hopefully reassure those who are still hesitant that this is not some weird art-house film.
Snowpiercer is a little out of left field. It’s different to anything we’ve seen before but it isn’t isolating. Unfortunately big-shot producers like to trample on a good thing in an effort to appeal to the masses, and director Joon-ho Bong’s unwillingness to bend to Harvey ‘Scissorhands’ Weinstein’s demands resulted in a crappy distribution to Western audiences. On the plus side, we’re getting the film as it was meant to be seen. Thank you Joon-ho Bong for placing some faith in your audience.