AD 2031, the passengers in the train are the only survivors on Earth.
Imagine, us, human finally manage to come up with a solution to global climate change. A chemical solution that we can spread to our atmosphere and manage to normalize the temperature. But what if it does not stop there? Instead it backfire and not only normalize the temperature but also lowering it further and before we know it, the Earth become a solid mass of ice, it’s Ice Age all over again. And the sole means of survival is on board of a moving train, 24/7, 365 days a year on the Snowpiercer.
Following the ever present theme of revolts against the 1-percenters, Snowpiercer begins right at the beginning of the action. The plan to took over the train already brewing at the back of the train, where the have-nots are huddled together in their ragged clothes. A guidance provided from the mysterious red letter smuggled in their protein blocks become their guide for the plan. Their plan is to go to the head of the train and face Wilford, the mysterious train engineer, and demand equality. Headed by Curtis (Chris Evans), as the leader, the first phase of their plan is to break to the prison to free Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) and to the extent as his daughter Yoona (AKo Ah-sung). Minsu willing to assist their plan as long as he was paid by kronole, some kind of hallucinogenic substance. Of course, as it always is plan never really went unhitched, hindered by Mason (Tilda Swinton) and other Wilford’s minions, Curtis is about to find the real truth behind beyond the barriers.
The film is made up by a solid ensemble of casts, Evans (sans his Captain America suit) show broken tragic hero that is just enough to carry the entire film. Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris and John Hurt, filled their respective role well. The scene stealer is of course the tour de force that is Tilda Swinton as the facsistic fanatic. Decked up in odd prosthetics that elevate her eccentric theatricality especially when combined with her heavy yorkshire accent. Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung return as a father-daughter duet for the second time after The Host. Both giving a worthy performance comparable to their Hollywood counterparts. There were a lot of grim moments in Snowpiercer, same darkness that is commonly found in his film. The huge problem i have with Snowpiercer is how everything was divulged entirely in dialogue, the conclusion, the secrets, the hidden past. I wished for a more subtle delivery and a little less conversational narrative. While The Host got a poignant conclusion in the very end and manage to subtly merge political themes and popular fiction into a delicious roll of genre cinema, Snowpiercer felt really literal and still a little too raw.
Adapted from 1982 french graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer (설국열차) is Bong Joon-ho’s fifth film so far, but it is the first one with more than 80% its dialogue in English. Which lead to the assumption that this is a hollywood production, much like Park Chan Wok’s Stoker. Well its not. Bong stumble upon the graphic novel during the pre-production of his signature monster flick, The Host (2006). He showed it to his friend and fellow director (Wok), whose production company secure the rights for screen adaptation. CJ Entertainment cough up roughly $40 million investment in the movie, a bargain compared to what Hollywood films from the same genre usually required.
Still, with the said budget Bong and his production team manage to came up with a vision of this train as the post-apocalyptic dwelling of what was left from human. Functioning like a Noah’s Ark on rails with different compartments showing different aspect of living to ensure sustainability and human survival. Gardens, Aquarium-like fish tank, even spas, and night club, showcasing layers upon layers of socio-economical differences while others made up by prisons and overcrowded compartments for those low lives who were forced to stay impoverished while the 1-percenters live in their abundant wealth.
Snowpiercer might not be Bong Joon-ho’s best. But i applaud his guts to go to this type of high-concept genre films and still made it quite smart. I think both the international actors and South Korean ones worked well together, a testament to his directing skill. Although the scripts need a little more finesse, overall i’m still throughly impressed by it. Would love to see what Bong would deliver next.
GENRE Science Fiction, Thriller
DIRECTOR Bong Joon-ho | PRODUCER Park Chan-wook, Lee Tae-hun, Park Tae-jum, Dooho Choi, Robert Bernacchi, David Minkowski, Matthew Stillman | WRITER Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson | MUSIC Marco Beltrami | CINEMATOGRAPHER Hong Kyung-pyo | EDITOR Steve M. Choe | STUDIO Moho Films, Opus Picture, Stillking Films | DISTRIBUTOR The Weinstein Company, CJ Entertainment | COUNTRY South Korea, United States, France | BUDGET $39.2 million | RUNNING TIME 125 minutes | RATING R for disturbing violent content, including torture, and language throughout | RELEASE August 1, 2013 (SK), November 19, 2013 (ID)
STARRING Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, Luke Pasquallino