Have you had enough of post-apocalyptic, dystopian movies yet? I think it’s safe to consider this a genre at this point, especially when you look at the increase of movies taking place in this setting that came out in the past few years. I particularly still enjoy them, and while I was working through my watch list on Netflix, I realized that I haven’t yet seen “Snowpiercer”, a movie that’s been recommended to me by a couple of friends, and so I decided to give it a shot.
The plot picks up seventeen years after some countries release a chemical in the atmosphere in an attempt to reduce the effects of global warming, an attempt that goes badly, of course, and ends up freezing the entire planet. A few survivors board a train that travels around the whole world and that’s where they’ve been living ever since the dawn of the new ice age. The train, much like our society itself, is separated into different classes, where a few chosen ones live glamorously in the front and the rest live in terrible conditions in the back, eating dubious protein bars and being told that they have to be grateful for Wilford’s (the train’s owner and creator) generosity. After years of living in these sub-human conditions, Curtis (Chris Evans) leads the people who live in the back of the train into an uprising toward the train’s engine and Wilford.
The main thing that captured my attention in this film was how the art direction was able to perfectly match the tone of the script. The back cabins were clustered, small and dirty, and the further toward the front of the train they went, the larger and clearer the spaces became. This change was mostly subtle and happened throughout the whole movie, but the moment when the lower class folks first see through a window, something they probably haven’t done in seventeen years, was able to showcase just how terrible the conditions they were living in were. The costumes and makeup followed suit, and in one of the first scenes it’s easy to see the discrepancy between Mason’s (Tilda Swinton) colorful outfit and polished hairdo and the rest of the people’s dirty and unkempt looks. While the visual effects for the scenes that show the train from the outside weren’t especially good, the set design inside the train was amazingly detailed, and I feel like I should watch it in a bigger screen so I can see more of it.
The acting was also very solid here. I should say that I am terrified of Tilda Swinton. She is apparently able to play anything that’s given to her, and her acting has this edge to it that makes me a little restless every single time I see her in something. This movie is no exception, and she plays a character so despicable that I found myself feeling sorry for her at times. I’m a big fan of Chris Evans, and I really enjoyed seeing him playing a character that’s unlike any other of his recent works. While I am a huge Captain America fangirl, I also feel like Evans has a lot of potential for these more serious and dramatic roles (not that Steve Rogers isn’t a dramatic role if you ask me), and I would like to see more of that in the post-Marvel future.
Finally, I was really curious to see more works by this director, Bong Joon-ho. This was his first movie outside South Korea and his first English spoken movie. He also directed “The Host”, which I’ve heard good things about (if you’ve ever seen it, let me know your thoughts!). “Snowpiercer”, while not a cinematic masterpiece, was a good two hours of entertainment. The food for though it provides regarding social dynamics, the capitalist system and the unequal distribution of wealth is dense, and I feel like this is a movie that could be analyzed by several different lenses – be it technical or sociological. The movie does feel messy sometimes, with so many people and conflicts happening, but while that would be something that might put me off, in this case things felt like they were done on purpose, so I wasn’t too bothered by that. I felt like there were some plot holes here and there but, like I said, I don’t think this film strives to be a masterpiece, so it does what it set out to do: be a summer blockbuster that gets you thinking, as a bonus. I’m looking forward to discussing this movie with my college friends, and I would also really like to hear your thoughts about it!
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