Written by Jacob Chimilar (@sweetlows)
The set up for this movie is simple. Global Warming had gone beyond safe levels and scientists came up with a chemical that was dispersed in the air to allow the planet to cool. The downside is that turned the world into a frozen uninhabitable wasteland akin to the planet Hoth. The sole survivors live on a train constructed by the Wilford Company. The train is rocketing along a track that traverses the entire world once a year. Each compartment, from the head to the tail, is split up based on class, the upper and lower class with no in-between.
It's a tale we've seen in many movies, where there are the “haves” and “have-nots” and the “have-nots” are not having it anymore, they want their fair share and they'll do whatever it takes to get it.
This film is written and directed by Bong Joon-ho and based off a french graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” by Jacque Lob. It stars a host of talented people including John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Alison Pill, Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell. It's lead by a commanding performance by Chris Evans, who is allowed to put the boy scout Captain America away and really show off his gritty side. Star-spangled man he is not.
A great aspect of Snowpiercer is that it joins the league of movies that manage to set up an intriguing premise, have a good cast of characters, great world building and doesn't point out every little difference. It lets the world be and doesn't try and call attention to the fact that its not the world we know. We are simply thrown into a world we don't really know and through conversations with others we get an idea of what its like to be there and serves to expand our understanding of the circumstances in ways that don't feel forced.
The thing that stood out to me the most was just how incredibly well done this movie is. The cinematography is beautiful, the camera work, stunning. The set designs, fantastic. It's clear that they had some very talented people working on this movie and they all gave it their absolute best.
It's nice to see a movie that doesn't try to stick to a single visual style, it actually embraces various styles depending on the setting. Some sci-fi movies feel the need to stick to a specific color palette and keep the settings relatively consistent. Snowpiercer isn't afraid to do things differently. As you travel around the various compartments of the train each is done completely different and introduces various, fully realized worlds. It does this while still maintaining the emotional tone of the film. It's a difficult thing to do for some movies, but Snowpiercer handles all the changes with ease and the train becomes a character in and of itself, expertly crafting an engrossing atmosphere within every car.
Additionally this is, for the most part, an action movie. Gratefully one that not only has visual flair, creative fight sequences with real and relevant stakes, but also dramatic heft, character development and good story telling. It takes common, relatable themes, puts them in a fresh and engaging setting and fills it with tense, exciting action and that's a lot of fun to watch.
Snowpiercer is the kind of low budget, high production value movie that puts every dime to good use. There are lots of movies out there that prove that even with small budgets you can do amazing things. This is one of them. That's why I think more people should know about this gem. It's a great piece of genre filmmaking, oozing with creativity, and most importantly, entertaining. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!
BONUS: I thought I'd include this video by fellow Vancouverite Tony Zhou of "Every Frame a Painting". It looks at decision making in movies. It has lots of spoilers for Snowpiercer so after you watch the movie give it a go, it's really interesting!