Snowpiercer

  • SnowpiercerLess a smart action adventure, as some have billed it, and more a splendid science-fiction drama, Snowpiercer deserves to be one of the rare June-released features to receive recognition come award season.
  • The film has so many strengths that listing all of them will be impossible.
  • Start with director Joon-ho Bong.
  • In the hands of lesser directors slow motion is annoying, but Bong makes it beautiful and powerful, using it to redefine action sequences; here the violence does not excite us. It makes us recoil, makes us wish these characters could find peaceful common ground.
  • The director’s audio design is even more impressive. Because the sounds of the train’s movement are omnipresent, we feel like passengers, confined by this high speed home, just like Curtis (Chris Evans), Namgoong Minsu (Kang-ho Song), Edgar (Jamie Bell) and the other characters.
  • Many of Bong’s images are startling beautiful, both within and outside of the train.
  • Simply put, Snowpiercer is artistically and technically fantastic.
  • It is also well acted. The principle performers are universally strong, but special mention to an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton (Mason), who is award-worthy good as a duplicitous schemer only interested in her personal well-being.
  • John Hurt (Gilliam) is almost Swinton’s equal. He gives his character a manipulative edge, one that is equally subtle and important. Hurt single-handedly shows that Gilliam might not be everything Curtis thinks he is.
  • Kang-ho Song layers his character just as well.
  • And Chris Evans anchors Snowpiercer admirably, at least in part because he lets other actors attract the most attention.
  • Bong and co-writer Kelly Masterson’s screenplay is terrific. All characters are sufficiently developed. The plot is often surprising, not least because the writers dare to have their characters make difficult choices. And so forth.
  • Snowpiercer’s themes are not delivered heavy-handedly. Amongst other themes, this film makes us think about caste systems and wealth disparities, at the same time it spurs consideration of environmental abuse.
  • In fact, this picture is almost perfect. Maybe some lines of dialogue contradict others. Maybe Gilliam’s role could have been better explored. Maybe there’s another minor flaw or two.
  • But so what? Snowpiercer is truly excellent.
  • Final Grade: A
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35 thoughts on “Snowpiercer

  1. Wow, it’s garnered extremely high praise from you, as well! Another reviewer whose opinion I trust very well. Well then, I can’t say that I’m trying to keep my expectations for this low or even at a reasonable level. There’s just been too much hype; it’s impossible to ignore the fact that i MUST SEE THIS MOVIE!!!

  2. Right on Josh! I’m impressed w/ Bong’s direction here and performances are good across the board. Nice to see Evans displaying dramatic chops in a good material. I thought he was decent in Puncture but the film wasn’t very good. The twist in regards John Hurt’s character was quite a surprise to me, didn’t see that coming but I guess it make sense about the whole *balance* thing. Btw, someone on my blog told me that his name’s an homage to Terry Gilliam.

    • I wondered if it was an homage – certainly seems possible. And Bong lays ample groundwork for the ‘twist,’ in just about every conversation Gilliam and Curtis have, the most important being what the former tells the latter to do the instant he meets Willford. I do wonder about the thing Curtis describes Gilliam doing when they first boarded the train, though. How does that fit into the twist?

      Agreed on Evans. He’s also very, very good in last year’s The Iceman. The dude is definitely more than Captain America.

    • Agreed. I almost scored it an A+, which would have made it just the fourth film to receive that grade on this blog. In the end, I didn’t quite go that far, obviously, but it is still only the fourth flick I’ve thought worthy of such consideration.

  3. Masterpiece is accurate. I don’t know what to say and I have writer’s block on my own personal review. It is an astonishing creation that deserves a ton of recognition. Your review is on point sir!

  4. I’m undecided on this movie. It’s so uneven and overblown in many ways, but – I suppose that’s kind of its charm? Like, it only really functions as allegory (the specifics of how the train would work doesn’t really make any sense) and it’s so all over the place in that respect – and yet, allegories that are too neat are also problematic. I dunno! I should really watch it again (one of the reasons I’m yet to review it).

    • The train’s logistics are … questionable. Especially since the first event occurs in early July 2014 and we don’t have any technology yet approaching that train.

      But … honestly that didn’t bother me one bit. Still doesn’t. Most Sci-Fi has similarly silly premises that don’t hold up to scrunity, but the good examples are immersive enough to facilitate suspension of disbelief anyway. I think Snowpiercer is one such example.

  5. Good review Josh. Excellent points and a wonderful movie! Definitely in my top ten for the year, I was extremely impressed with this film!

  6. Brilliant write up, it was a very unusual film, but I had such a blast watching it. I loved the inner themes and that the main female protagonist was Octavia Spencer.
    My favourite scene was the bit with Alison Pill haha.

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