Not all sci-fi films are made equal. Some are bright stars shining through with meaning and originality, while others are cheap ripoffs made for thrills and chills but usually delivers neither. It is when a new director comes to the fold that we see whether they glow with said talent or flicker with hope before dying out. Joon-ho Bong has already proven his worth with films like The Host but will he soar in an English language production? It’s going to be a wild train ride. Literally.
Let’s take a look at Snowpiercer.
Snowpiercer, based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, is about a post frozen wasteland Earth, caused by a freezing chemical released in the air to try and stop global warming goes bad and turns the world into a frozen thundra. Humanity’s salvation comes in the form in a huge train where the last of humanity is crammed on. The train circumnavigates the world in a year’s time. When the story begins, it has been 17 years since humans have inhabited the train and we see how the lowest class lives (pretty terribly), as they plan a revolt to make it to the engine of the train, to change the social order and rule all at last. Nothing is as simple as it seems, and the train is full of dangers and secrets these rag-tag rebels aren’t expecting.
At first you might think this film is making an environmental argument, but in reality it’s all about our modern class system. The lowest class attempts to revolt against the upper classes, facing bloody opposition at every turn, seeing the shocking ignorance of those in the stations above them to keep them where they are. In the end, it turns out that not only was the revolt total useless but totally planned to fit exactly into their model for the future, and hurts the revolters more than the establishment. We may not be on a high speed super train, but we do follow the same rules. We are even forced to sacrifice children to keep this broken system running, literally. This is one of the most well done metaphors in science-fiction history, and I for one enjoyed every minute of it. It is a brilliant metaphor pulled off expertly by acclaimed screenplay writer and director Joon-Ho Bong.
Chris Evans is a revelation in this role. He gives one of the most harrowing speeches I’ve seen in the last few years in any genre, which I will refer to as the “baby” monologue because if it is does make your heart clench, you aren’t human. While Evans is by far the best of the cast, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Kang-Ho Song are excellent, with special mention needed for Ah-Sung Go who plays space-case druggie Yona. The real star here is the director, who not only makes a tight and compact train feel like its own world and a prison at the same time, but with great use of color and camera is really able to make you feel like a part of this dizzying and horrifying world, showing us enough to remain disoriented but also intrigued. The characters are fleshed out, the dialogue expertly written, and while the plot is not of his creation, Bong makes you feel like it is a world all his own. No gesture is out of place, no detail unimportant, making the message and the characters sing in harmony.
If you are lucky enough to have this film in theaters, go. Buy a ticket, buy one for everyone you know, and watch it. Support this amazing piece of film so that we can see more of Bong’s work stateside. If you love sci-fi in any form, you will love Snowpiercer with the same intensity as I do and many already have.
– Great acting.
– Excellent screenplay.
– Excellent cinematography.
– The ending is a little too open-ended for my taste.