Director: Joon-ho Bong
Recommended By: Netflix
Date Reviewed: 2 November 2014
Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris
“Passengers, this is not a shoe. This is disorder. This is size ten chaos. This. See this? This is death.”
Mason (Tilda Swinton)
Summary and Review:
The premise is as simple as it is bizarre—in an effort to combat global warming in 2014, a chemical compound was seeded into the atmosphere that instead kickstarted a deadly ice age. The only survivors are the men, women, and children who have boarded the marvelous Wilford luxury train, an entirely self-sufficient locomotive with a nearly endless array of cars. Mr. Wilford was an eccentric billionaire inventor who just happened to create a perpetual motion locomotive that travels on a rail system that circumnavigates the entire world.
It has been seventeen years since the dawn of the ice age. The passengers of the tail section do most of the physical labor, subsist on murky slabs of protein given after each daily count by the guards, and eventually have their children go missing. Curtis (Chris Evans, Captain America) has worked further up the train, and has seen how the people there have real food, beds, and aren’t covered in grime. Unfortunately, they have all the guns.
Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) is the spokesperson of Mr. Wilford, and the one who administers justice to the lower classes. Imagine a schoolmarm authoritarian who sort of reminds me of the character Dolores Umbrage would be if she was written by Wes Anderson. Her character is a bland monster of a lady who is so much fun to watch.
Curtis is aided by Edgar–a young guy with an Irish brogue out to prove himself, Tanya–an everywoman driven toward rebellion to find her lost son, and Gilliam (John Hurt)–the elder leader of the people of the tail section and the only person there to whom both Minister Mason and the mysterious Mr. Wilford offer any respect. His plan is to make his way forward through the train to take control of the engine. He is not the first to do so–in the past seventeen years of bondage there have been a few other revolutions that have always ended in violence and tragedy. Curtis knows that he has to go all the way or he has doomed them all. His plan involves springing Namgoong from suspended animation prison. Namgoong designed all the gates and security systems of the train, but he’s also addicted to the hallucinogen Kronol. It’s a long shot bet at best.
I won’t reveal anything else about the plot. Let’s just say that the twists and turns remind me of moments from 1984, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s quite a trip.
It’s also not a film for children. The violence and language are in line with a Tarantino flick, and the nihilism of many of the characters may be disturbing for young viewers. That said, it offers a few moments of breathtaking beauty and enough layers of symbolism that one could spend quite some time breaking down all of the typologies, similes, and metaphors.
If you are a fan of dystopian fare or surrealist sci-fi you will deeply enjoy Snowpiercer. If you tastes run more mundane you might think it is weird for the sake of weirdness. I think it is quite an interesting film, and I look forward to watching it again sometime soon.