Starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris, Snowpiercer tells the story of a dystopian future when climate change have lay wasted to what remains of Earth. The planet is covered in a deadly permafrost brought on by man’s attempts to reverse years of the planet’s atmospheric destruction. The film is a mouthful of an allegory that will likely become a cult classic than make billions this weekend at the box office. It’s not to say the film is bad — it’s not for everyone — it’s just not your typical blockbuster affair. Fans of Oldboy and Sunshine (also starring Evans), will enjoy the mix of sci-fi, action, and gore presented in Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s film adaption of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige. Oh yeah, and Tilda Swinton wears a shoe on her head! But that’s just one of the things you should know going into the film.
Things get lost in translation.
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and adapted for American audiences by Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who is making his English language debut, it’s hard not to see why a few things don’t quite translate on screen. However, where narrative sometimes fails, the visuals succeed. This film is stunning to look at. From the aquarium car to blood splatter, the eyes are rewarded with stunning design and camerawork.
Don’t make sense of the train.
It’s just not worth the time spent thinking about the inherent flaws of a film about a dystopian Noah’s Ark speeding on a railway that goes in a giant loop around the world while holding the remains of humanity. The shape and size (and sometimes the purpose) of the train changes from scene to scene. It’s not worth dwelling on the questions like, “Where are the cows that provide the meat? Where do people in the front sleep? Why is there a sauna car still in use?” (Though, if your curious, the graphic above outlines the entire layout of the locomotive.)
It’s a bloody mess.
Literally, there’s blood and carnage in nearly every scene. One scene — when the rebellion files into a train car filled with army of ax men — feels reminiscent of the Korean cult classic, Oldboy, when the main character savagely battles his way through a hall of warriors.
Savor the fact that Chris Evans is not playing a superhero.
Some of Evans best roles are the ones that are not named Captain America. Sure that part is a fun, showy, bare-chested role in the ever expanding Avengers film series, but it’s his parts in this and Sunshine where he really shines. In the film, Evans fights against the oppression of the front of the train while running from the leadership label that’s being slapped on his back. It’s a far cry from the hero worship of his previous work but a welcome one at that.
Tilda Swinton wears a shoe on her head.
Okay, Swinton does not spend the entire time wearing a shoe on her head but when she does, it only adds to the zany look she sports in the film. As Mason, Swinton serves up imperialist grandmother gone off the rails that it almost distracts from how vicious and wild her character is. Don’t be fooled by this woman — she may be the voice of the front of the train but she means bloody business.
Octavia Spencer is wasted in the film.
Spencer is a perfectly fine actress — something proven by her turn as Minny Jackson in The Help — but has gone wasted in the years since her Oscar win. She received minor attention for her role in Fruitvale Station but has larger bounced around TV with small guest starring roles. In Snowpiercer, she’s present but underutilized. Her character Tanya is just there until she isn’t anymore. Someone please get Spencer’s career in rehab — or make sure Red Band Society is a hit — before she’s seen as a one hit wonder.
Blink and you’ll miss Alison Pill.
Well don’t blink! That’s an order. After watching the actress wither away as the insufferable Maggie on HBO’s The Newsroom the past two years it’s a nice surprise to see her so alive in such a small but standout role in the film. As Teacher, Pill dispenses some much-needed epilogue about the current train society in a creepy, brainwashed classroom scene.
If nothing else, just enjoy these photos of Tilda Swinton from the film…
Seriously, she looks amazing.