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Snowpiercer’s high-octane and nonstop story keeps you on the edge of your seat while carefully developing its characters and the world they live in. You learn more and more as time goes on, and there never seems to be a completely dull moment. Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer supply career-defining performances along with Bong Joon-ho’s visually remarkable directing job.
In a distant future, a social experiment to help prevent global warming results in the entire world being frozen over at a completely uninhabitable level. The surviving population now lives on the Snowpiercer; a train that travels around the world in a year’s time. A class system exists onboard, and Curtis (Evans) leads a revolt through the entire length of the train, with the help of Edgar (Jaime Bell), Tanya (Spencer) and Gilliam (John Hurt) to kill its leader and founder Wilford (Ed Harris).
Bong Joon-ho (Mother, The Host) puts up an incredible effort into this movie. He uses being aboard a train in an immensely personal way, and gives the plot a very focused motive. He directs each sequence with its own emotional level and consumes you in the story. The choreography used in the action scenes are shot beautifully and the editing is spot-on. Joon-ho develops his story and characters in a way that doesn’t leave anything open-ended, but by also taking his time so you learn more and more about everything as the movie progresses. There is a different setting and environment with each train car that really changes the mood several times on-and-off in a seamless way.
Snowpiercer has a pretty stellar lineup of a cast, from the distinguished John Hurt (Alien, V for Vandetta) to rising star Jaime Bell (TURN, Filth). But this movie ultimately belongs to the trio of Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Octavia Spencer, who each offer up very memorable performances. Evans takes on one of the strongest of his career, which is surprising considering the huge success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier earlier this year. His character is a very angry and determined individual who’s past starts to unravel as he loses the people he’s close to.
Swinton plays a bit of a whack-job who is implied to be very close to Wilford. She helps get across just how outlandish and dreary the movie actually is, and comes off as totally brainwashed. Spencer, who adds to just about anything you put her in, has maybe the most emotional role of all, with a clear-cut motive to rescue her son who was taken from her.
The action and fight scenes were some of the most well-staged, interesting and thoughtful you will see in theaters right now. One scene in particular is when the rebellion fights off a large group of butchers with nothing but axes, and have to work around the train’s surroundings going from bright daylight to a pitch-black tunnel. The direction of this sequence is perfectly executed. There are themes in this movie that will make you cringe, including the fact that the poor are fed poorly-produced protein bars and use toxic-waste rocks called Kronols to get high off of.
Really the only thing that I disliked about this movie was a scene when the rebellion makes it to the train car that acts as a school. The scene really took me out of the movie, and seemed so unnecessary and cheesy. Thinking about it, it showed just how brainwashed the people aboard the Snowpiercer had been, but for about five minutes I was really let go from the movie (thankfully they take no time in launching you right back in).
Overall, Snowpiercer is a stunning alternative to all those big-name Summer blockbusters (it’s actually ok if you skip Transformers 4). Like The Rover that I recently reviewed, this movie proves that there are still several hidden gems left to shine in the land of movies. Snowpiercer was originally released in North Korea last year, and I have been waiting for it since, and not only were my expectations met, but is now definitely in my Top 5 of the Summer.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Kronols
– Josh Sazin, 7/9/14