“Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.” Declares Mason (a devilishly incredible Tilda Swinton) to the horde of lower class citizens packed into the tail end of a train in Bong Joon-Ho’s latest epic Snowpiercer.
Seventeen years prior, in 2014, the government injected CW-7 into the air. A chemical that was supposed to reverse the effects of global warming, CW-7 worked too well, causing the entire planet to freeze over. The mysterious Wilford predicted the tragedy, building the title train to save citizens from the deadly environment. Now, anyone not aboard the Snowpiercer has died, with the surviving hundreds separated by class throughout the train.
For seventeen years the poor have been living in the overcrowded, windowless cars of the tail section. Surviving solely on mysterious black “protein bars” and constantly abused by security personnel, the citizens are fed up. Revolutions from the back of the train have failed before, but Gilliam (John Hurt) has finally planned one that he confidently feels will work. Too old to lead the revolt himself, Gilliam has trained Curtis (Chris Evans) to lead a group of passengers to the front of the train. Joining Curtis is his pal Edgar (Jaime Bell), a mother desperate to retrieve her confiscated son (Octavia Spencer), and jail-broken security expert Namgoong Minsoo (Bong regular Song Kang-Ho).
Snowpiercer is the first Bong Joon-Ho film that many subtitle-fearing North Americans will ever see, and it’s a damn good one that works just as well as his South Korean films. The film demonstrates a perfect mix between art-house and blockbuster. It is just as thrilling as any big action film to come out of Hollywood, but features the subtle touches Bong is known for. A scene where a snowflake slowly drifts through a bullet hole in the side of the train will surely resonate.
The twisted reality aboard the first-class sections of the train may remind viewers of The Capitol in The Hunger Games films, but Bong manages to keep it original.
While the dystopian film is often dark, it does feature a good amount of black-humour. Most of the film’s funniest bits would not be possible without the immense talent of Tilda Swinton, an actress who in the past few years has shown that she is one of the greatest performers of our generation.
Snowpiercer provides us with a fresh spin on the dark dystopian future sub-genre. In the hands of another filmmaker, Snowpiercer could’ve been a mess. Thankfully, one of today’s greatest directors tackled the film with a stellar cast and a fresh perspective. Snowpiercer is unlike any action film we have ever seen before, and it’s one that you definitely won’t want to miss.