Country: South Korea, USA, France
Language: English, Korean, Japanese, French
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Music: Marco Beltrami
Cinematography: Kyung-pyo Hong
Marcanthonee Jon Reis
One may not truly enjoy this South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s first English-speaking film, if he or she is persistently bugged by the illogical and unscientific milieu of its source comic book series “Le Transperceneige” – all extant human beings are dwelling on a non-stop train “Snowpiercer” in the near future, which energised by a perpetually functional engine. But if one can accept the premise, this coach-by-coach advancing insurgence will be a haunting roller-coaster ride with an untenable final twist.
Better to deem it as an incisive allegory of a post-apocalyptic dystopia, where schism ensues from the dissonance between the lowest class and the absolute power, and certainly a revolution is working in progress. Shepherded by Curtis (Evans), a born leader and his second-in-command Edgar (Bell), the destitute from the tail section decide to start another uprising to overthrow the autocracy of Wilford (Harris), the owner of Snowpiercer and the mastermind who invented the sacred engine and stays in the front section, and will not condescend to set his foot on the sordid and overpopulated barracks of the tail. So Curtis has to lead his posse to meet Wilford, with a helping hand from the gate-opener Namgoong Minsu (Song) and his clairvoyant daughter Yona (Ko). There are a slew of polished action sequences including the modish slo-motion battle with gangs of axes, the slaughter inside a multicoloured children’s classroom and an engaging combat in the sauna room, the violence is relentlessly piercing through and body counts are increasing, but the editing sometimes jumps and cuts in a wanton manner which hurts the consistency of the ongoing process, in particular, the torch relay part is edited out of place with the scrimmage in the pitch dark.
Chris Evans has been offered a rare opportunity here, a slick action star aside, his monologue about the appalling cannibalism simply is by far his career-best, one can sense the monster inside him, that’s why the optimistic coda feels like short-changed, since Curtis is not a pure symbol of righteousness, his dark side should be harnessed as an heir of Wilford’s egocentric philosophy, I wish Bong could have been bolder, using children as the trigger for a sea change in the nick of time is a run-of-the-mill tactic.
Most of the supporting cast are expendable pawns, Bell is a rattling blabber, Hurt is the wise guy with hidden secrets while Harris is a not-so-persuasive smooth talker and Spencer is a doughty mother who can bludgeon. Song and Ko pair (from Bong’s THE HOST 2006) plays a more essential part representing a more pragmatic approach to escape from the train when weather condition ameliorates, which is the hope befalls eventually, but a true scene stealer is Tilda Swinton, almost unrecognisable by the horrendous makeup and dentures, portrays a borderline cartoon-clown with a great deal of zeal and zaniness.
“Snowpiercer” echoes Noah’s ark, elsewhere is an inanimate frozen land and inside it is a microcosm of human society, the special effects of the vast expanse of snow-covered earth viewed through the window is impressive (it is the most expensive film ever made by South Korea, so at least they should put the money in good use) yet a tad monotonous, and the various tableaux of different coaches encapsulates the discrepant nitty-gritty of both high and low classes, pitifully, there is still no place for middle ground majorities.