In the midst of summer movie season, here we are with a movie I’ve been looking forward to for the past two years. Unfortunately, Harvey Weinstein (keeping up his track record of pulling shit like this) made this movie go through hoops in order to get a proper release. And you know what I’m so glad the uncut version is what is coming out in America because this is easily the best film I’ve seen this year.
Seventeen years into the second Ice Age, Curtis (played by Chris Evans) lives in the tail section of a train named Snowpiercer that does a full lap around the world every year. In an oppressive class based system, Curtis leads a charge to the front of the train where the engine is key to their uprising.
This film has so many layers to it, I’m still dissecting it as I write this. The film works as an allegory on so many levels speaking to class, race, and oppression of most worldwide governments. Director Bong Joon Ho pointed out that when Octavia Spencer gets beaten by the guards it recalls Rodney King. Ho even went on to say the tail section of the train is almost like a concentration camp which is very true. The oppression and treatment that is shown in the first fifteen minutes of the film are harrowing. But once the uprising begins, we are treated to some of the best action scenes that are done this year. The film hit me hard with its two revelations near the end of the film.
Ho’s shot composition is poetic. The framing and the way the camera moves is hypnotic almost like a Kubrick film in which you are sucked into the imagery. Everything in every shot has a purpose whether it’s to convey an emotion or get the heart pumping with action, nothing feels gratuitous. That goes the same with set and production which has so much detail that I’ll have to take in again on a second viewing. For a film that was made independently and on a small budget, this has better effects and set pieces than most summer movies this year.
The all-star cast brings in top notch performances whether big or small under Ho’s direction. Chris Evans is an actor who I never thought would be this great at the beginning of his career. The layers of his complex hero is really a morality play for him as we watch him make hard decision that go against typical Hollywood conventions and could possibly turn the audience against him. Especially the first big revelation at the end of the film shows just how complex and messed up things were involving his character. Tilda Swinton, who is practically unrecognizable, puts in a great performance as an ambassador for Wilford, the creator of the Snowpiercer train. Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, and Jaime Bell give gravitas to their supporting characters adding weight and emotion for us to get invested in their characters. Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung shine as comic relief with more than meets the eye to both of their characters. Alison Pill as an absolutely crazy school teacher who is brainwashing the youth of the one percent on the train. And I will not spoil a great actor who pops up who has very important role in trying to manipulate (and is very convincing as well) our hero from his goal.
The only minor, and I mean minor, problem I had with this film is the seemingly invincible henchman who wouldn’t die. It seemed too comical and kinda disconnected from the otherwise grounded reality of the world the film is set in.
If this is playing in your area, simply go. Here’s a list of theatres: http://snowpiercer-film.com/screenings. Can you imagine if more summer movies are as smart as this? We’d have more great films done year round if that was the case. Bong Joon Ho has made something really special here so please, please don’t miss this one.