Set in the dystopian future, the world tried to conquer global warming with a formula called CW7, but it backfired and created an ice age. The only survivors live on a train, set up by social class, that travels across the world.
Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton. Written and Directed by: Joon Ho-Boong
The lowest class of train civilians live in the back. They are treated as mere refuse, living in squalid conditions and eating black protein bars as their only nourishment. The powers that be, the front of the train, forces them to live in these conditions and even abduct their children for mysterious reasons.
Among those members is Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell) who are conspiring a mutiny to get to the head of the train. His belief is that the person who controls the engine controls their fate. The line that sticks out: “We control the engine, we control the world.” Tanya (Octavia Spencer) and Andrew (Ewan Bremer), two parents who are desperate to get their children back from the train’s government round out the crew.They free Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-Ho Song) and his daughter Yona (Ah-Sung Ko) from the prison and bribe the former to help by giving him a drug called krenole. When they discover he is a security specialist who can open up all the train’s doors, the rebellion starts!
As Namgoong opens up each door of the train, Curtis and his rebels fight against the police state guarding the train. Armed with only strategy and blunt instruments, they are able to get the attention of the right-hand woman of the establishment, Mason (Tilda Swinton). Her belief is that everyone has their place on the train and getting out of line is disorder. Curtis captures her in a bloody uprising and she agrees to help him find Wilford (Ed Harris) who is the controller of the train’s eternal engine.
The community of rebels push Curtis into leadership, but he is reluctant to step up, believing that his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) is the better option. The excessive loss of life during the rebellion makes it evident the burden of executing Wilford will be that of a select few.
Their journey leads to them to the luxury parts of the train where the upper classes are pampered. When Curtis finally makes it to the head of the engine, he gets his final confrontation with Wilford who reveals the whole purpose of the train.
Snowpiercer is based on a graphic novel of the same name. It was gracious enough to land on Netflix even though the movie has experienced scarce exposure.
The community of Curtis and his band of rebels as they live together in the lower class train is very gripping. The movie strongly shows that these people care for one another and will do anything for the purpose of freedom and a better life. Their trust on Curtis to lead is contrasted with his constant self-doubts. Curtis, played by Chris Evans, is the strong silent type whose only acting direction was to mimic Keanu Reeves. This technique works in this movie because everything is so serious in the back of the train.
The flow of the story is very quick and edgy. Director Joon-Ho Boong wastes no time bringing the rebellion to a reality, but at the same time, the movie gives proper background to why the characters are on the train and their relationship to one another. You want to see Curtis succeed.
I especially like the color scheme and atmosphere of the scenes as the movie progressed. They start off in the filth covered back where their beds are composed of rust and metal. Then, each car graduates into more color, luxury, and geauty, replacing scrap heaps with carpeted floors, piano music, and wallpaper.
The bad guys are reminiscent of the Hunger Games‘ government. They wear bright colors and speak with an air of arrogance. Mason is smug and believes that the back of the train should be thankful for their chance to be alive.
In one scene, the rebels meet a school teacher. The walls are brightly colored and the kids are laughing and screaming. The teacher brings out a piano and the kids start singing a worship song to Wilford. This scene is comical, and I think the scene is supposed to represent American Sunday schools.
There are numerous battle scenes that depict the struggle of the rebellion to fight off the police state. They are clever, but also remind me of battles in Braveheart: lots of machetes and clubs being swung into people’s vital organs.
The build up to the end when Curtis finally meets Wilford gets a bit cluster-fussy. Suddenly every character who is still alive reveals a huge game changing plan. Wilford’s confrontation looking like it was stolen from The Matrix Reloaded‘s Architect scene compounds the problem. The twist ending for Curtis is good and worth the ride, but it gets bogged down by sub-plots.
Swearing: Lots of F, S and AH words, God’s name is taken in vain
Violence: Lots of hacking and slashing with bladed instruments. Tons of limbs get hacked off. Bullets go flying into skulls.
Disturbing Stuff: A story about cannibalism puts the main character in a different light. The drug krenole is an addictive hallucinogen.
Spiritual: Wilford is viewed as the god of the eternal engine. He gives life and salvation to the inhabitants. I truly believe the school scene is social commentary on American Sunday School as a form of brainwashing.
Redemptive Qualities: The story is about order and chaos. The government in charge of the train represents order, but completely ignores the needs of the lower class. The good guys bring chaos and disorder for freedom and tip the social structure on its head. The movie is silent about whether it is good for the poor to rebel and the rich to suffer, but it does show each side as being flawed. Curtis and his people are freedom fighters, but the movie alludes that Curtis has no vision or purpose when he does take power. He is lost. In addition, the movie brings up an excellent point about how the rich deserve to be rich because they paid to be in the train, and the poor deserve to be thankful because they are freeloaders. If the train represents the world and its corruption, then God is calling us to live outside of it.
You can add Snowpiercer to the list of indie graphic novels that were made into excellent movies (including The Road, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Road to Perdition). This movie is strong in its atmosphere and plot and it grips the viewer and does not let go until the surprise ending.[amazon template=thumbnail&asin=B00M7D824O]
+ Gripping atmosphere and story
+ The mutiny of Curtis is exciting to watch
+ Clever battle scenes
+ Great game changing reveal at the end
- Feels too much like The Matrix
- Ending gets kind of muddled in plots