IMDb – 7/10 (boo that noise)
Rotten Tomatoes – 94% (much better)
Wow. No, don’t ask about the shoe. See for yourself.
I will always be impressed when a film manages to make me feel both impressed-appreciative as well as depressed-somber as the story winds down. Snowpiercer manages to be not only a stunning visual film, a well acted spectacle and a engrossing set-up for revolt, tension & conspiracy but also a uniquely scripted and presented story that leaves you thinking about more than just how awesome the ninjas-fighting-on-a-train scene was… in night vision (SPOILER: This was merely one, easily phrased, example of some incredible action sequences in the movie.). Go see this. Stay at home and see this – it should be available VOD for many of you. I seem to be getting ahead of myself in my accolades.
To the guiding questions!
Should I pay to see it?
Yes you should, fellow movie watcher. This one’s worthy of the dough in a cinema or home viewing. Available in both theaters and On Demand, it makes for a good time either way.
I have really enjoyed Chris Evans as Captain America but holy toledos, ‘Cap, does Evans put on a show here, especially in one of the most gut-wrenching monologues I have heard in some time. The entire cast shines with the likes of Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell and John Hurt giving remarkable performances as those stuck in the dirty, grim rear of the last train on Earth at the end of the world (plus 17 years – the stage is set quickly and effectively by Director Joon-ho Bong. Some other filmmakers of action fare could take not of the Hemmingway-esque briskness in exposition. Set it up, we’re smart enough to fill in the blanks as you peel away edges.). The movie clips along at an excellent pace and visually the film can be stunning. From the dirty clautrauphobia to the maniac action sequences, Snowpiercer offers a version of the last of humanity that is both lived-in/relatable (scarily so) and weird, immense and small. Well, no, ‘small’ sounds like I am belittling – the right word is ‘contained.’ Whereas we’ve seen big, bloated takes on such cataclysmic scenarios (I think of 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, off the top of my head. Or even Book of Eli, which deserves a post for the world it attempts, but falls short of fully, creating), I cannot think of any film to compare Snowpiercer to. The Road comes to mind, but there is no zany wackness in that near-future. Snowpiercer stands out and will one day be part of my movie collection because the film manages to balance a very real and disturbing dystopian scenario, whilst having a Terry Gilliam-esque odd artfulness throughout. You very quickly feel sucked into the tight little world of the last train of mankind and the big ideas the film presents along the way.
Could I watch it with a date?
Indeed you could make this a date night movie (again, from a cinema or couch – hooray technology!).
I mentioned the cast of actors above who all give outstanding performances, playing into the situation presented with the right amount of hammy intensity that might be seen as cartoonish in another film, but is more nuanced here, working with the crazy, decidedly odd intensity the feels very believable for people who have been living on a train for over a decade. Both the men and women do a great job in their roles, headed, in my opinion, by the aforementioned Cap’n America & Tilda Swinton. Swinton plays a character hard to describe without spoiling too much of the meaty goodness of the plot – suffice to say she plays (and nails) one of the craziest, kookiest villains I’ve seen. Evans, too, is worth mentioning again. Much of his role he is the standard tortured leader of the resistance, and the actor does an excellent job. However the role grows as the plot thickens. I will say this: Chris Evans ends up giving a truly, truly chilling, absolutely disturbing, gut-wrenching monologue towards the end I would never have seen coming. I won’t spoil this, but suffice to say Captain America is not just a strong jaw and abs – Evans can act.
Swinton and Evans are two perfect examples of the serious-but-weird world of Snowpiercer (based on a graphic novel, FYI). Waste becomes a hallucenegenic drug aboard the transport as those in the back of the train live in horrific, authoritarian conditions. A classroom of small children further up the train (and further along in the film, sorry) see a ‘history’ video about the train’s creator and recite further propaganda that are both hilarious and profoundly unsettling. All the weird action (a good Netflix tag, by the way. I’ll look into that) builds to a profound last 20-30 minutes. I admit, I was immediately perplexed by the ending. However not in a bad way. Upon further reflection, I think I gave pause because the plot, twist and ending tone does not tie up in a tidy bow as are often used to in an action film. A good apocalyptic/dystopian/sci-fi(ish) movie should leave a viewer feeling twisted, disturbed and provoke deeper thought. Good ones, mind you. The new Transformers has ‘extinction’ in the title, but I doubt you leave the theater contemplating humanity and true desperation…
Could I watch it with my mother?
Certainly, good sir or lady. For all the reasons outlined above, including (but not limited to) Chris Evans’ handsome jawline. Unless your mother has profound claustrophobia or an oddly-specific aversion to Korean filmmakers, I cannot imagine a reason she would not enjoy the film. Yes, there are some showy action pieces and brilliantly constructed sets to destroy. But the core of the movie lies in the much quieter desperation of those who are the ‘have-nots’ at the end of the world. The twists and turns of the story along the way, the revealing of more and more of the train unfurls a remarkable dramatic world within this fast-moving tube. Snowpiercer deserves every accolade you see. Great for action, a perfectly paced and explored story, great for drama & tension, and, above all, a film well-acted & beautifully shot (the ‘tunnel’ vision of being on a train led to some scenes I will be looking hard for screencaps of, if you know a guy). Snowpiercer delivers and devastates you. Add this to your list of movies to see, without question, and regardless of who with or where you’re seeing this movie.
P.S. – don’t eat the food bars… and let us know what you think of the ending!!