What Is Snowpiercer?
Snowpiercer is a really good flick; however, I don’t think I could have told you that after my first viewing of it. I heard this was a “Must See” movie for the summer, so I thought I would recommend it to a couple of my friends and we would sit down and watch it On Demand. They were baffled by it, unsure of what to think of it, and eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t any good.
I held off revealing my gut reaction for a moment, letting them get out their frustration after sitting through a two hour film that apparently was unsatisfying. I don’t know what it was, but I thought I was missing something even though I was immensely entertained throughout. They were confused. I was intrigued.
I went to the Internet and read everything I could about it, trying to grasp the meaning behind that ending or eventually discovering that the true heart of the film wasn’t Chris Evans’ Curtis, but the father-daughter duo of Namgoong and Yona. I needed to put the pieces together before I viewed it a second time. After a second viewing Snowpiercer wasn’t just a really good flick, but a great one.
The film is based on the French Graphic Novel La Transperceneige, but director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer begins in the not so distant future in a world frozen over after a botched attempt to save it from global warming. All life forms were killed off except for those who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that circles the globe courtesy of a wealthy industrialist named Wilford.
The premise is quickly put in place and it is revealed that the train is broken up into separate classes, from the head (well-off people living in comfort) to the tail (the poor people cramped in tight quarters). With the premise intact, the people in the tail lead by Curtis (Chris Evans), plan a revolt in pursuit of the engine, where no one from the tail has ever been.
The revolt is lead by Curtis with help from characters who do not fit neatly into any particular role in a film like this. There’s Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as Tanya, who loses her son to the head of the train under mysterious circumstances. There’s the aforementioned Namgoong (Kang-ho Song) and Yona (Ah-sung Ko), the father-daughter duo that gives the film its life; Edgar (Jamie Bell) is Curtis’ right-hand man and Gilliam (John Hurt) is Curtis’ prophetic mentor.
All of these characters are unique in their own way, but there is one character played by Tilda Swinton named Minister Mason, who is Wilford’s right-hand woman. She’s funny, disturbing and quite possibly the most memorable character in this film.
Then there is Wilford himself who only comes into play towards the end. A notable actor plays him, but I won’t spoil it here. Wilford is perfectly cast and he turns his scenes into some really meaningful moments towards the end of the film.
As I said, I did a lot of reading following my first viewing, which lead to a better experience the second time around. Snowpiercer’s message reflects well on our present world, where everything is broken up into social classes in which the rich ultimately get richer and the poor stay poor.
There is an ode to Adam and Eve in ridiculous propaganda taught to young children praising Wilford as God-like (in a scene played by Allison Pill to great effect). Additionally, and what I think is the movie’s biggest message, we learn chaos creates sustainability for humanity. It’s a grim look at the world, but it’s ultimately a pretty grim film as well.
Should You Watch Snowpiercer?
Don’t watch Snowpiercer if you want to turn off your brain and just be entertained. You will be entertained of course, but there is no way you will be entertained if you expect the film to spell things out for you. There is nuance and societal texts involved and if you’re willing to absorb it all you won’t be disappointed. The cast is great and they give some really good performances, most notably Captain America himself, Chris Evans. It’s definitely worth your time, especially since you can watch it in the comfort of your own home. However, with there being some impressive visuals, it might be a better experience watching it on the big screen if the opportunity is there.