Snowpiercer (2013)

8.33 Overall Score
Acting: 9/10
Writing: 7/10
Directing: 9/10

The cinematography, the set design, and the action scenes.

Sometimes moved too quickly.

Snowpiercer

Dir: Joon-ho Bong

Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell

A South Korean science fiction film based on a French graphic novel, Snowpiercer, is the story of the last members of the human race surviving aboard a train in perpetual motion.  In an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming, humanity creates a chemical, CW-7, with the intent on lowering the temperature of the planet.  Instead they create a second ice age.

The film is a dystopic view of a future society where the wealthy few live in the front of the train, controlling the power and food, while the impoverished masses live in the tail end.  Guided by small notes embedded in the black, gelatin protein bars they eat, Curtis (Evans) and Gilliam (Hurt) mount a rebellion during the 17th year of this self inflicted ice age.  Their goal is simple… to take control of the engine at the front and kill Wilfred (Harris), the train’s designer and god-like figure.  To accomplish this, they enlist the help of a drug addicted securities expert, Namgoong Minsu (Kang-ho Song), who originally designed the doors that separate the cars.

Even though this is a story we have all seen before, this film manages to seem fresh.  The current socio-political climates concerning class and global warming aside, this film manages to take the dystopian future film, cram it into a claustrophobic space and make it exciting.  What stands out in the film is the cinematography and the attention to detail in the design, with the two often working hand in hand to make this a believable setting.  The train cars all manage to look unique adding to the complexity of the setting, and enough exposition given for each car to keep the viewer engaged with the surroundings.

The most notable sequence takes place before a battle early on in the film, where the rebellion comes face to face with a group of large, masked men wielding axes and knives.  The space is cramped and the people are all pressed shoulder to shoulder as the two sides stare each other down.  But the camera uses long shots, looking down the train cars to create a sense of scale.  What struck me about these shots is that you could see the cars rocking back and forth, and it was the first time I noticed this in the film.  The movement of the train and the stillness of the people in these sequences echoed the frailty of the situation, not just at that moment, but also for the entire film.

Now the film is not without its faults.  For the most part the characters aren’t given much time to develop, and at times the sound editing is uneven.  The science is also a tad silly, but not as much of an issue since the filmmakers don’t attempt to explain it, but rather let the viewer accept it.  The performances are solid though, and the story is interesting enough to make you forget about the little things.

The film is set to release in the US in the summer of 2014, and I for one look forward to experiencing it in the theater.

 

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Dan Folgar
Author: Dan Folgar View all posts by
Dan Folgar received a degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Central Florida in 2008, and is currently working on an MFA in Fine Arts. He is an avid film watcher and an enthusiast who is prone to ranting. Follow on twitter @grim842.

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