“Order is the barrier that holds back the flood of death. We must all of us on this train of life remain in our allotted station. We must each of us occupy our preordained particular position. Would you wear a shoe on your head? Of course you wouldn’t wear a shoe on your head. A shoe doesn’t belong on your head. A shoe belongs on your foot….. Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.”
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, John Hurt, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-Ho, Tilda Swinton
It’s been 18 years since we froze the earth. The few remaining humans live on the Snowpiercer, a train on an infinite loop around the globe. For those at the front, it’s a lavish paradise of drugs and sushi in the lap of luxury; for those trapped in the tail section, life is short and cruel.
But change is in the air. Curtis (Chris Evans), desperate to escape the tail of the train, plans an uprising, aided by his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt). What begins as an isolated riot explodes into a mass revolution, an all-or-nothing push to the front of the train, and a war for humanity’s future. Who will live and who will die? How far can they go? Is there hope beyond the frozen wastes?
Well that escalated quickly.
What begins with a ponderous pace, quickly, and violently ramps up into madness and bloodshed. Snowpiercer is a film that takes a fairly well worn concept, and turns it up to eleven. The eccentric, non-stop madness is all part of the charm though, and although there are a few logical leaps that need to be made along the way, Bong Joon-Ho’s first English language movie is a triumph, and a breath of fresh air from the humdrum modern action films that have been churned out over the past few years.
There is no denying that the film has its wrinkles and imperfections, but the world is so well realised, and well defined through the excellent set design, cinematography and special effects that even at its most bonkers it’s easy to be swept along in the mayhem. The performances are strong for the most part which also helps, with Chris Evans and Song Kang-Ho getting two of the meatier roles. Tilda Swinton’s Mason meanwhile reaches levels of oddity and pomposity that even The Hunger Games‘ Effie Trinket would be proud of. In amongst all of the chaos (and there is a lot of chaos), she in particular, is the one character that teeters on the brink of absurdity, but Swinton’s committed performance ensures that she walks that fine line expertly.
Fittingly, for a film set on an endlessly looping train, Snowpiercer’s successes lie in its ability to build momentum. As our intrepid heroes continue their uprising from the tail section of the train, through each beautifully designed carriage and intense set piece they bring, the pace picks up to breakneck levels. The film’s climax slightly disappoints, with the final ten minutes stretching the realms of believability, and there are a few aforementioned leaps of logic that need to be made along the way, but without a doubt despite the odd bumps, it’s a ride worth taking.
A gripping journey through a beautifully realised post-apocalyptic world, paved with bloodshed, mayhem and the odd moment of absurdity.
Rating (out of 5):