The world has frozen over and the train speeds on.
This is the setting of “Snowpiercer” where a cataclysmic event in the near future has caused the world to enter a second ice age and the only survivors are those aboard a train that never stops. Class warfare rages up and down through the cars as the oppressed tail section riders attempt to overthrow the domineering upper class that live in the front of the train. This, however, does not even begin to explain the movie but to explain any more would be doing a great disservice to the surprises that Korean director Joon-ho Bong has in store for audiences. This is tough movie to pin down in terms of tone as the film expertly dances between social commentary, surreal science fiction, and pitch black humor but it works thanks to the stellar cast. Chris Evans, of Captain America fame, ditches the shield in exchange for dark eyed determination as he leads the revolution and gives the film a deeply human center as he paints a portrait of man on the brink of losing his humanity. Opposite him stands Tilda Swinton, disguised behind outrageous glasses and dentures, as an upper class elitist in charge of keeping the tail section passengers in their place. The absurd nature of a story about an everlasting train is deftly balanced by the performances of the ensemble cast; all the main characters are given layers and twists to subvert audiences’ initial perceptions and background characters are given enough charisma and detail to make you wish you could spend more time among the train’s passengers. The cars of the train themselves are important characters as the revolution rises from the squalor of the last car, through gardens and nightclubs, to the fabled engine car at the front of the train; rarely has such attention to detail and importance been given to a film’s setting.
This is a movie that respects the viewer’s intelligence, the rarest of blockbuster traits, and enough can not be said about this as it trusts the audience with the story by not spoon feeding us information nor cramming the social commentary down our throats. The world of the movie has been meticulously crafted and filmed as evident from little things such as how the camera shakes during the chaos and uncertainty at the start of the uprising and then steadies as Chris Evens’s Curtis becomes more determined; everything in the film has purpose. If you are looking for a movie that is the complete opposite of the soulless excess of “Transformers” then this is it; “Snowpiercer” is one of the most original and engaging science fiction films you will ever see and is out now in select theaters.