Had I not checked what was showing on the cinemas the other day, I might never have found out about Snowpiercer, a South Korean production starring Captain America himself, Chris Evans, along with other Hollywood A-listers Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell. Had I missed it, it would have been a great shame because it was one finely executed movie.
Snowpiercer is an action thriller inspired by the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige which director Boon Joon ho read in a comic book store in Korea. The film chronicles the events 17 years after a failed experiment called CW7 screwed up the Earth’s weather resulting in a new ice age that killed all life on the planet except for a precious few who managed to board the Snowpiercer, a train that is built to run non stop throughout the year. The train is self sustaining and equipped with all the facilities needed for its occupants to survive. However, it operates on a class system wherein the rich and privileged occupy the front of the locomotive in luxury while the poor are cramped in the tail living in inhumane conditions and subsisting only on disgusting protein bars that the train’s owner Mr. Wilford (Ed Harris) provides. When the abuse continues to worsen, Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), aided by cues from a mysterious ally from the front, forms a plan with tail end elder Gilliam (William Hurt) and his best friend Edgar (Jamie Bell) to take the engine. In order to get past the doors leading to the different compartments, they enlist the help of Namgoon Minsu (Song Kang Ho), a prisoner who designed the train’s mechanism and his clairvoyant daughter Yona (Go Ah Sung).
The performance of the cast is already a given. The strong Hollywood cast, coupled with top Korean actors made for an explosive combination that that made the story more compelling and effective. From the beginning, the film took its time to lay the foundation for an interesting plot. Each segment of the train held an unexpected challenge that surprised not only the characters but also the audience resulting in a lot of facepalm moments when the characters find it hard to catch a break. But the brilliance of the film really lies with its ability to use the segments as building blocks that gradually add to the story. Characters talk in riddles, leaving clues for audiences to follow. Towards the beginning, the filmmakers were leaving crumbs about him not being who people thought he was, but when his backstory is unraveled, it was just so gutwrenching that its really hard not to be torn between dismay or sympathy for the rebel leader.When Curtis finally reveals the events that led to the revolt and how his character is connected to other people in the tail, the audiences will feel like they have been through the journey with Curtis himself. But just as Curtis unburdens himself and audiences think everything is over, yet another plot is revealed and this one is more mind boggling and shocking.
Koreans are known for their excellent cinematography and film style and Snowpiercer does not disappoint. The style in which the movie was executed was magnificent and very consistent with the graphic novel itself. Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of the quirky Mason added to the sense of the overall unreality of the film as well as the over the top mind conditioning in the front of the train.
All in all, I would venture to say that Snowpiercer, despite its relative lack of promotion, is one movie that deserves to be seen. It is intelligent and methodical. It is visually arresting and stunning. It deals with characters that are multi-faceted and engaging. It affects audiences on an emotional and intellectual level. At the end of the film, audiences will continue to marvel at its execution and this is a mark of its pure awesomeness.