In a twist of irony, one of summer’s most thrilling theatrical hits takes place in a sub-zero setting.
“Snowpiercer,” directed by Boon Joon-ho, is based on the French graphic novel “La Transperceneige”.
The film focuses on the aftermath of a failed global cooling experiment, which was meant to bring down the warming climate.
An ice age swept over Earth, and the last known human survivors were placed onboard the Snowpiercer—a large train that is powered by a perpetual-motion engine and travels on a continuous loop spanning the world.
Unsurprisingly, a class system was set in place, with the poor and less able sent to the back to live in abominable conditions, and the wealthy in the front.
The merciless and mirthful Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) is the middleman between the classes and law-enforcer of those in the back, and delights in reminding them of their lowly status.
18 years after Snowpiercer began its maiden voyage, Curtis (Chris Evans), the young and capable leader of those in the back of the train begins to put in motion his long-awaited plans to overthrow the front and gain control of the engine.
Guided by his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) and a series of anonymous notes sent from someone in the front, Curtis and his loyal followers succeed in breaking through the next few train cars in order to release the man who designed the doors of the train, Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) and his teenage daughter Yona (Go Ah-sung).
In exchange for his services in opening the rest of the doors of the train, Curtis offers the pair Kronol, a highly toxic and explosive inhalant drug they are both addicted to.
The rest of the film follows Curtis and his team’s struggle to gain control of the train, and their shock and awe at how the upper class lives.
‘Snowpiercer’ is Boon Joon-ho’s first English-language film debut, and an engaging journey from start to finish.
The action is grisly and beautifully stylized, and the suspense is never dialed down. Even in scenes where the fighting ceases, there’s always an undercurrent of suspicion and slight hysteria.
Chris Evans’ performance in the film can certainly be seen as a testament to his acting skill. While we are used to his roles as a heroic fighter, there are highly emotional scenes laced throughout the film that he carries with aplomb—a wonderful surprise from an actor usually seen in eye-candy type roles.
Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung, largely unknown to American audiences, are definitely standouts in the film. The pair’s portrayals as father and daughter are touching and warm. In particular, Go Ah-sung’s Yona is a treat from start to finish.
The rest of the large cast, including Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Luke Pasqualino, Alison Pill and Ed Harris amongst others provides the film with numerous multi-faceted characters that remind the viewer the plight of the train extends far beyond the main character.
Nonstop action makes “Snowpiercer” the perfect summer thriller, but the movie’s depth and surprising gravitas stays with you beyond the fight scenes and special effects.
Recommended: Thrilling, visceral, and surprisingly emotional, “Snowpiercer” is a ride not to be missed.
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