Snowpiercer: You need to see it

download Snowpiercer, the South Korean directed sci-fi thriller, was shot in 2012 and released to basically everywhere except the U.S. in 2013. The reason for the hold-up? Probably due to the conflicting perspectives on how the final version of the film would be. Harvey Weinstein, the film’s producer, didn’t seem to like the final cut by the film’s director Bong Joon-ho. Weinstein wanted major cuts to happen to the film and Bong Joon-ho refused. The outcome? The film was released on June 27, 2014…the same weekend opening as the latest big-budget franchise movie Transformers: Age of Extinction.

Snowpiercer, however, has become the underdog favorite movie for the summer. The reason? Despite a limited opening release of just eight theaters, the film went on to have a video on demand release two weeks after the theatrical one. Within a few days after releasing to VOD platforms, a swift internet chatter of admiration developed for the dystopian themed movie. It currently holds a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

When the opening credits come up, it’s 2014. The earth has reached high temperatures due to global warming. A chemical by the name of CM7 is released into the atmosphere by several countries in an attempt to cool down the earth’s temperatures. Things don’t go as planned. The chemical released experiment causes a massive ice age that kills almost all life on earth. The only surviving people are ones aboard a train that circumnavigates the world.

Curtis (Chris Evans), lives at the tail-end of the train along with his fellow inhabitants Edgar, Gilliam and Tanya. The train is led by wealthy businessman Wilford (Ed Harris). Wilford has the train structured into a class system. The wealthy stay up at the front of the train, near the engine. Various aquariums, animal habitats and gardens are in the middle of the train. The poor live in the tail-end.

Curtis, fed up with the conditions the tail-end people endure, sets up a plan for a revolt. He draws experience from previous rebellions when planning. He carefully watches the pattern that the train doors open in every time the guards come to deliver food. Making note of timing, guard behavior and revolt’s of the past, he notices a key element the guards are missing. Once the notice of this missing element is picked up, the revolt is on.

Pep talked by his elderly mentor, Gilliam, Curtis leads the revolt. With a pack of people, he charges through the doors of each train car. Along the way, he enlists the help of former train security officer Namgoong Minsoo and his daughter, two people with the ability to open the train’s doors.

Picture time!
Picture time!

The society on wheels is thrilling with its different compartments. Curtis and his team fight off a group of creepy masked soldiers, marvel at an aquarium compartment and take in the staggering differences between the tail-end and higher up sections. Tilda Swinton gives a refreshing comic performance as Mason, the high level citizen who leads tail-end rebels through the train’s sections.

Snowpiercer isn’t something that can be pigeon-holed like most dystopian action films. The dialogue is filled with mindful anecdotes. CGI only supplements the real gritty action taking place. The ending twists into something the viewer wouldn’t normally expect. Lessons taken from the ending of the dsytopian film could include:

  • Upsetting reality even if revolts are successful
  • Complex nature of how to run a society where everyone is in need
  • Reflection of how exactly leadership should be handled
Forget CGI and robots, this is real action!
Forget CGI and robots, this is real action!

Best way to enjoy this film? Watch it twice.While it is refreshing to watch on the first take,  it’s one of those movies where the little details start to become clearer on second viewing. A must see for anyone tired of mindless big-budget franchises and endless sequels. A+

Indiewire did a great article detailing the theater vs. VOD numbers for anyone looking for an informative read on the marketing side of this film.