Film Review: Snowpiercer (2014)
Occasion: Friday night fun night
In its desperation to stop global warming, humankind has triggered an ice age, wiping out virtually all life on earth. A few survivors have sought shelter onboard the Snowpiercer, a train powered by a perpetual motion engine, on an infinite loop around the world. The Snowpiercer is a marvel of engineering, a high speed luxury sanctury and a prison for those passengers trapped in the tail end.
Director Joon-ho (The Host) presents an original and dramatic vision of a post-apocalyptic world. Snowpiercer isn’t bound by the tropes which burden so many other films of the genre. America does not save the day*; there is no love story to soften the disaster narrative; the female characters are not Hollywood-perfect damsels in distress or ass-kicking bombshells.
The culturally diverse passengers are the last humans alive on earth, bound by an accidental class system dictated by the value of the train ticket they purchased 17 years ago. Their struggle feels real and relevant: watching passengers from different train cars tear each other apart rather than work together towards co-habitation in confinement, is uncomfortably similar to real-life geo-political boundary disputes played out in the news media today. Snowpiercer is an Orwellian statement about class struggle, revolution and our inability to stop the cycle of corruption and greed.
If the film falls short it is that it launches too quickly into the action. There is no time to bond with some of the film’s protagonists, so it is hard to feel sadness when they suffer. However this does not diminish the fact that Snowpiercer is one of the finest end of the world movies I’ve seen in years.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton
Loosely based on the graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette
*This would be because it is South Korean and based on a French graphic novel. But it was very refreshing, nonetheless.