Based on the French graphic novel, Le Trasnperceneige the film takes place in the not so distant future where Earth has been overcome by a new ice age. Life as we know it has been wiped out except for the survivors aboard the train Snowpiercer. Travelling the globe and never stopping, the train is self sustaining, those that live in the front live in luxury while those in the back live in poverty. Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) is leading the next and possibly last in the series of assaults to reach the front.
And The Weinsteins are doing it again. Sometimes I wonder if they value the intelligence of the audience. In short, the reason why only a few of us have seen this quite brilliant little sci-fi film is because head honcho Harvey Weinstein demanded that scenes be cut and the film should open and close with a monologue. You know, just in case we’re too stupid to understand what happened or something. Although not by them, something similar happened with Dark City where the producers demanded they add Kiefer Sutherlands character explain bits of the plot in the opening, something that wasn’t needed then and isn’t needed now.
Despite the various petitions and demands from audiences as well as the overwhelming reviews, Weinstein has decided a limited release to the film, why? bitterness maybe because he didn’t get his way? Or is it how the one percent are portrayed in this film? I don’t know, what I do know is that this film rocked my socks off.
So first things first. After a failed attempt to stop global warming, humanity and well, all forms of life have died due to the new ice age. Genius inventor Wilford (Ed Harris) having predicted the oncoming catastrophe builds a massive train that is self sustaining, doesn’t need fuel, and is constantly on the move taking a whole year to circle the globe.
The story begins around 17 years after the catastrophe. The train is run by Mason (Tilda Swindon) and has been split into two separate classes. Those in the front, live a life of luxury with dance clubs, normal food and drugs as well as luxurious living quarters.
Those that live in the back or tail as they call it however, live in poverty. Many of them are amputees, they live in slum like conditions and their main source of currency is trading food which is brought to them in daily rations, Protein Bars they are called and do not look appetising to the eye at all.
Chris Evans plays Curtis Everett the one charged with leading the rebellion and reaching the front. I must say that this is Evans’s most demanding and probably darkest role to date. On the surface he seems like a man determined to do what he must to move forward but there is a dark past which will quite literally make your jaw drop to the ground once it is revealed in a monologue brilliantly delivered by Evans.
We also have the always delightful to see, John Hurt as Gilliam, a wise old amputee that aids Curtis and his energetic second in command Edgar played by Jamie Bell. After Evans leads the first wave of attacks they make it to the prison area where they enlist the help of a technician who can help open doors and his daughter who might be psychic (Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-Sung respectively). They fight through even more hordes of soldiers in some quite gripping and brutal action pieces until we reach one of the many memorable scenes which takes place in a classroom. There we find out the history of Wilford, how he built the train and how he is now perceived as a god or saviour. I must say that that scene in particular brought back some early Gilliam surrealism as well as the Ayn Rand inspired Bioshock game’s worshiping of Rapture’s creator Andrew Ryan.
Directed by Bong Joon-Ho of The Host(no not that one!) fame, he brings us his American debut and it really is a shame it is plagued with so many problems outside the movie. He keeps our butts glued and palms firmly gripped on our seats as Evans and co fight their way to the heart of the train, eventually coming face to face with Wilford. There we have the steel cold Harris as he explains his true intentions. It isn’t pretty but it will make you stop and think while somewhat hating yourself since acknowledging that he could be right…for the most part.
The one you really will remember though is Swindon as the over the top Thatcher clone Mason. She reminded me somewhat of Jodie Foster in Elysium with a weirder accent but far funnier and satirical to say the least. Unlike Foster though she seems to be overacting her role due to the ridiculousness of her character and her beliefs, you will hate her but you can’t help but laugh at her. It fits with the movie since, well these are the last known humans that have been confined to a metal box for the rest of their existence, who wouldn’t go a bit mad?
I get the feeling that Boon-Ho will prove the Weinsteins wrong just as Del Toro did when he suffered the same setbacks with Mimic back in the day, look how that turned out for him.
Obviously, it goes without saying I frigging loved this movie and I can only hope it gets the recognition it deserves. If it is at a cinema near you go ahead and catch it, it should also be released on VOD. Though be warned it can get quite dark, that goes for the actual light in the film as well as the tone. In the end, the themes such as the rich vs poor isn’t anything new but the film does have an original feel to it. Filled with both action, drama and powerhouse performances all around this film is a must.
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris
Running Time: 126 minutes
Release Date: TBA