Snowpiercer is director Bong Joon-ho’s English-language debut, and the director has seamlessly transitioned to American filmmaking, while never straining far from his native Korean style.  While the film is in english, the Korean influences and cinematic styles are evident throughout.  Snowpeircer is a tightly crafted, horrific, and often a film so horrible and over the top, it’s comical.

Snowpiercer is a disturbing look at a post-apocalyptic future society, divide by class, and traveling on a train powered by a perpetual-motion engine as the world has frozen and become inhabitable.  In 2014, a global warming experiment caused a massive global ice age which killed-off almost every  life form on earth.  As the world began to freeze, a train is created to shield the inhabitants from the cold, and serve as the entire society contained in one siblge train.  Snowpiercer looks intensely at the class-system we have both in our past and in our current society, with the elites ride in the front of the train with every luxury imaginable.  Hot-tubes, bars, nightclubs, gardens, fresh meat, and schools all occupy the front train cars, while the tail riders are forced in cramped and unimaginably hopeless situations.  The tail passengers are are given a processed protein “jello like” block as their meal everyday, while under the watch of machine welding oppressors.  Revolutions have occurred, but have always been quelled, as the passengers in the back struggle just to stay alive.  It’s like the class system in the Hunger Games (or an extreme representation of our society), but contained and the entire civilization is one train.

Jamie-Bell-in-Snowpiercer-2013-Movie-ImageThe passengers in the back of the train have been waiting for the right time for another revolution, and move ahead to the front of the train, where they are forbidden to enter as they are the “poor” and low class.  This new revolution is led by reluctant leader Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), who is taking over as leader from the elder Gilliam (John Hurt).  As Curtis leads his troops to the front of the train, they are met with armed and armored guards who gun down anyone who tries to get to the front.  Curtis and the lower class must look within themselves and push on, as the master and creator Wilford (Ed Harris) along with the oddly detached Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) attempt to stop any revolution from infiltrating their way of life.

Snowpiercer is excellent at blending multiple genres and cultures into one cinematic presentation.  The film requires audiences to disband disbelief, and not to take this it as literally as one may want too.  If you nitpick at the plot, your missing the point of the movie.  The film destroys the idea of a class-system, and shows you the horrors in one line of train cars.  What is going on in the world today, is represented by the train, and all the disgusting things humans do to each other is clearly represented in the film for the audiences to see.  There is a widening gap of prosperity and the class system perpetuates this economic gap that leaves the poor (or the trains back passengers) to fend for themselves, and ultimately rely on the help of the oppressors.  Before the back passengers were given their protein blocks, cannibalism was running rampant.  They were eating each other, until the front passengers decided they needed some of these poor to keep the machine going.  That’s when they started gibing the back passengers these protein blocks, and the cannabalism sieced to exist.  So obviously to avoid eating each other, the poor relied on the rich to give them their food, and a system was set in place.  This clearly represents our society, as when the idea of a revolution starts brewing, the elite have power over the poor, and the effectiveness is diminished and they occur much less often.

Snowpiercer-Movie-Review-Image-1As the economic gap is ever widening, this situation will only become more prevalent, and if history shows us anything, we will never learn from our mistakes.  The one percenters are getting richer, and a once flourishing middle class is beginning to wallow in squalor.  This is only the country I live in, bout the problem is happening worldwide.  This is why Snowpiercer is an excellent film, and can be used to compare pretty much any current countries economic state, and especially countries economic pasts.

Snowpiercer isn’t without its problems.  With an estimated budget of around $40 million, the film suffers the problem of being stuck somewhere in the economic middle itself.  It’s not a small indie, and it’s not a huge blockbuster.  The filmmakers used a few tricks to save the budget, which also add to the overall visual style.  For example, during some fight sequences, the lights are cut, and while you can’t see exact;y what’s happening, the implication is more impactful.  The CGI and exterior shot are noticeably weak, and not up to todays standards, but it takes nothing away from the overall impact of the movie (which should sit with you for days after your screening).

With billions of people on earth, it’s easy to distance ourselves from the problems of the severely poor.  I mean, if it’s not in plain sight it’s easy to forget about.  There are so many things going on in peoples lives they really only have time to make sure that their family is safe and can eat, but people everywhere need our help.  Not YOU in particular, but on the human level in general, our idea of the poor needs to change.  Snowpiercer does an exceptional job at bringing this to attention, and containing it to a limited number of people.  We are ever more connected these days, so the world is that much larger, but if we lived in small tribes and someone in your tribe needed help, you would help them.  Laying out the worlds problems on a single train is clever, but hard to execute perfectly.

The cast does an excellent job maintaining our interest in the characters and Bong Joon-ho is great at making this accessible to the masses, but the idea of the movie is the true star.  Snowpiercer is an over-the-top, horrific, and true look at our society, both past and present.  It’s a reminder that people aren’t so different, and the idea of a class-system is ridiculous.  It’s unfortunately a product of the system, but there is a little Chris Evans in everyone, and a revolution is always one step from realization.

Snowpiercer is directed by Bong Joon-ho and stars Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.