Snowpiercer photo starrating-5stars.jpgSnowpiercer is a work of art. A genre busting, amalgamation of action, drama and science fiction, that seamlessly weaves the qualities of disparate styles into an epic tale about a speeding train. The only survivor left on earth are the passengers on a massive locomotive that holds the sum total of all humanity in a climate controlled environment. Like a speeding bullet, it stops for nothing, circumnavigating the entire globe at one complete revolution per year. It hurtles down a track at lightning speeds across a world engulfed in an icy tundra. Snowpiercer is the first English language film from Bong Joon-ho. Savvy art house crowds might remember him as the director of The Host, a Korean monster-movie hit that was released in the U.S. back in 2007. That presaged a talent to watch but nothing could have prepared audiences for this masterpiece.

Working from the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Joon-ho Bong co-writes a screenplay with Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead). Together they fashion a post apocalyptic sci-fi dystopian drama. I know what you’re thinking. Those are a dime a dozen these days. But Snowpiercer is different. Powered by a perpetual motion engine, the locomotive holds humanity in its entirety, delineating the world according to class and rank. This caste system on the train is a visually rendered geometric plane of various cars that extends in 2 directions. In the front we get the elite of society living in luxury. In the very back, we have what you’d called steerage if this was the Titanic. Except the existence of passengers aboard the Snowpiercer is much much worse. They are the proletariat subjected to an oppressive rule that recalls the regime of a dictator. Here is where our impoverished team of protagonists reside. It’s the 2030s. They’ve been captive for 15 years and they’ve had it up to here with their lot in life. Let’s just say, they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

Snowpiercer is highlighted by a charismatic aggregation of talented actors. Chief among them is Chris Evans as Curtis Everett, an insurgent who leads the uprising. Edgar (Jamie Bell) is his rebellious friend. The elder statesmen of the group is called Gilliam (John Hurt) as in Terry Gilliam, director of Brazil. It’s risky to namecheck the rarefied air of that dystopian classic but Snowpiercer compares favorably. This indigent group also includes Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, and Luke Pasqualinoin among others, in key roles that highlight some troubling developments. Along the way their insurrection is aided by Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) a fellow prisoner. He’s the security expert who engineered the doors separating each car. He is joined by his daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung). On the opposite side we have Tilda Swinton, a strict disciplinarian tasked with enforcing the rules. She carries out the orders of Wilford, a higher power at the head of the train. A classroom indoctrinating the children in the virtues of the mighty Wilford is a chilling scene of worship and propaganda. Wilford’s control is reminiscent of the cult of a dictatorship. An all powerful person few have seen but everyone fears and respects.

Snowpiercer is a politically provocative ensemble piece of legendary proportions. A parable that manipulates the medium in impressively dynamic ways which captivate the mind while delighting the eye. It’s a production designer’s dream that makes full use of color, mood and style in representing the various rooms within the train. Amidst the futuristic sci-fi effects is a relentlessly sensational, claustrophobic indie about a revolution. Yes the fight for liberty is not an easy one. There will be blood. But it’s never in a gratuitous sense to appeal to bloodthirsty interests. Rather the struggles are a reminder that freedom is a right that many have died for lest ye ever take those blessings for granted. A nightmarish brawl shot entirely in the dark is uncomfortably scary. Snowpiercer is the greatest kind of picture. An intelligent saga of well crafted action that creatively entertains with a loopy imagination. It’s cinematically dazzling with heart pounding excitement. I’m not sure if this is the best film of 2014 yet, but it’s getting pretty close.


47 Responses to “Snowpiercer”

  1. OMG 5 stars! Splendid review, Mark. This is one of my most anticipatedfilms of the year and I’m now even more excited for it.

  2. Great review! I am thrilled to see you enjoyed it so much. I thought it was a fantastic piece of cinema!

  3. I’ve known pretty much nothing about this film until now. Reading your review, I now can’t wait to see this.

  4. Great review. I missed this when it was out in the UK but looking forward to catching it on dvd or rental soon.

  5. Looks like I’ll have to wait for home release, as this isn’t coming to my theater. Shame, but at least it sounds like an awesome film.

  6. This looks great! I’m not sure if a proper UK release date has been sorted yet, but I will be booking my seat asap!

    • The film’s UK premiere took place at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on June 22, 2014. Should only be a matter of time before it’s playing in regular theaters.

  7. garylee828 Says:

    You liked this better than Transformers 4?? lol. 5 Stars pretty big statement! 🙂 You raised my expectations. I have had this qued up for a while, but not yet watched. I will do so soon. I’m not reading your review until after I watch; i will revisit then. I think the best way to go into movies is knowing as little as possible. After seeing your rating, I am intently looking forward to this! 🙂

  8. High praise indeed! Really looking forward to seeing this now. Excellent work.


  9. I’d never heard of this movie before and saw the trailer, it looked interesting. Boy was I in for a surprise. this was AWESOME! I loved every bit of it. So exciting, intense emotional. What more could you ask for. This is a movie I wished had a wider release. People deserve to see this. If you get a chance, catch this one. It’s worth it. Also 5 stars.

  10. Such an interesting film. Great review 😀

  11. Can’t wait for this to make it to the UK!

  12. Wow, bouncing back from a miserable 1 star to top honors, very nice!

    I’ve not read a great deal about this, but the word has been unanimously very good. Wow. I can’t wait to check Snowpiercer out. These kinds of sci-fi flicks, esp those with a creative dystopian twist, are right up my alley

  13. This movie had no promo whatsoever but I never once regretted the decision to see it in the moviehouse anyhow. It was beautiful.

  14. wow. i definitely need to check this out

  15. garylee828 Says:

    This came to my town this week and so I got to go watch it at the theater. I didn’t like it as much as you, but I liked it pretty well, nonetheless. I think Chris Evans is progressing more and more into a strong actor. I really like his growth and hope he continues to hone his skills; he has the potential to become really good. I think the asian guy who was pulled from the drawer and recruited by Curtis is a good actor; he was also in “Thirst”.

    I think for me, there were parts that felt a bit over-the-top like the fight sequences and then some of the characters, like the one Tilda Swinton played; sure they were fun to watch (Chris Evans going all Steve Rogers on that one sequence – and the cartoonish demeanor of Swinton’s character) but that kind of took me out of the seriousness of the situation; those elements added an unwelcome light-heartedness to the mood that I felt was perhaps the director’s attempt at releasing the tension; but for me, I need to feel every drop of desperation of Curtis and his peers. I don’t want the tension cut.

    I did like the film, though; i was just offering explanation as to why I didn’t dig it quite as much as you. I would give it 7/10. Tilda Swinton was great in her role. lol. It just made it feel a bit like “Alice in Wonderland” for me.

    • The “over the top” moments are what took this from a standard post-apocalyptic dystopian drama into something quite captivating. Your critique is a bit like faulting the Wizard of Oz for progressing from a black & white picture into a color film when she gets to Oz. I’m glad you liked it but my appreciation goes far beyond “like”. It is the very definition on why the film medium is so dazzling to me.

      • garylee828 Says:

        Well, I wasn’t trying to critisize it. I liked the movie, I just didn’t feel as strongly about it as you and was trying to offer reasons why I personally felt the way about it that I did. I like Snowpiercer. I love V for Vendetta. Probably the difference is that V for Vendetta maintained a dark tone in a dark world, where as Snowpiercer weaved in-and-out of dark and light tones and shifted the tone through-out (although for the most part was pretty dark); and I think that is what made it work so well for you, where as a more consistent tone throughout works better for me.

        No right or wrong answer, here; just telling you my thoughts and really I don’t think I was critisizing it. The tone shift didn’t ruin the movie or anything; it just slowed me from being able to get into it as intently as I did a film like V for Vendetta. Meanwhile, the consistent dark tone of V for Vendetta may have been too serious for you and caused you not to like it as much. No right or wrong answers. Just different opinions.

        But regardless of difference of opinions, the film was well-executed; strong writing, acting and directing, and that’s the most important thing.

      • Did I misunderstand your opinion? I acknowledged you liked it. I was just restating my high regard for this film.

  16. Victor De Leon Says:

    Just saw this! WOW. What an amazing work of art indeed, Mark. I don’t even know if my review will do it justice. Yours is so spot on, man! This movie needs to be seen by every fan and admirer of film and cinema in general. Amazing post, Mark!

  17. And now I don’t have much to add. 🙂

    So very good, this film.

  18. I must see this one. I was never really aware it was going to be this great!

  19. I finally watched Snowpiercer last weekend and now I understand why everyone has been raving about it. Dystopian future films are a dime a dozen like you said, but this one feels so fresh and unique. Its use of color breathtaking and its production design is downright impressive. Each car on the train feels like its own self-contained environment with just as much character as the people inhabiting them. There’s riveting action (see: fight in the dark and steam room brawl), madcap moments (the school scene), and some nice twists toward the end that help the movie transcend its seemingly simple story about rebellion.

  20. Brilliant write up, it was a very unusual film, but I had such a blast watching it. I loved the inner themes and that the main female protagonist was Octavia Spencer.
    My favourite scene was the bit with Alison Pill haha.

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