REVIEW- Snowpiercer (a film by Joon Ho Bong)

From the opening montage setting the world in which you will spend the next mind bending 90 minutes, you get that frosty little tingling in the base of your seat that slices it’s way up your spine, crashing through the pan of your skull like a Kelvinesque sliver of ice…

Snowpiercer is a great ride!

Based on the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, which was just released in the US in 2014, the story has been updated and bit and rendered in a way that sucks you in from the first frames.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a SciFi epic that focused on story and characters instead of glitzy special effects. Don’t get me wrong. Snowpiercer is beautiful; from it’s terrifying vision of a world gone cold to the dark and sometimes shocking interiors of the namesake train. This movie hits you in the guts and yanks them out on the tip of a molecularly sharp fire ax. In short; it forces you to engage your brain as you shit your pants on the rollercoaster.

Without giving too much away, we open with a short flashback on an attempted fix to global warming (oh don’t groan, no preaching. Just a set up) which has backfired sending the entire Earth into a global deep freeze (a la Snowball Earth) for the past 17 years. All life on the planet has died off except for this tiny microcosm; The Snowpiercer. An indestructible, titanium alloy, nuclear powered supertrain a mile long and rocketing around the entire Earth once per year to avoid freezing in place. Crammed onboard are humanity’s (and the planet’s) lucky survivors who managed to obtain a first class ticket or alternately, passage in the back end steerage section. Ripe for a class war to emerge.

Packed in the rear, like cattle, living in squalor and subject to Nazi like fascist military treatment from the “Fronters”, “Those From the Back” plot their coup to overthrow their oppressors and battle their way, car by car, to the “Engine” where they imagine, salvation and God awaits. The notion is clear as all great thought provoking SciFi should be, this is a metaphor about class struggle in the world, between the haves and the have-nots. Those that strive to bind and those that will shed their last drop of blood to break those bonds.

In this case the director has done a brilliant job to mash up the entire world into the a few cars of a speeding train. A horrific vision of all of humanity, represented here and like specimens in a petri dish, we are riveted and helpless to turn away as they bleed and evolve before our eyes…a “Mad Max” Darwinian social experiment with its finger smashed permanently on fast-forward reminiscent of the work of an early William Gibson.

Be warned, this is NOT just a mindless action film. There is a deep and profound theme and mystery entwined in the plot as Curtis (Chris Evans- Captain American), in one of his best performances, leads his group of rag-tag rebels on a hell bent mission to take the engine. And as each car is breeched… as each drop of blood spatters to the deck, new clues and new twists are encountered until final assault when all becomes startlingly clear.

I highly recommend Snowpiercer and hope you get a chance to see it in a theater packed with other people if only to enjoy the sighs and gasps of your fellow travelers in this visionary consensual hallucination. As of this writing it has been slated for only limited viewings in the US.

(Chris Evans, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Kang-Ho Song, Jamie Bell…)


Mike Palma

Head Scribbler

ScreenPens, Ltd.

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