The premise behind Snowpiercer is absurd: the world has ended in snow and ice, and the only survivors of humanity live aboard a massive train that somehow never stops moving. The poor people, the dregs live at the back of the train, while the beautiful rich people live at the front. It’s ludicrous. It’s obvious social commentary class warfare BS tarted up in global warming-based science fiction silliness.
The script rises above the subject matter, making it a smarter story that its underlying assumptions deserve. Hints about terrible past events begin to make sense later on in the film, from strange hand gestures to the disturbing number of amputees among the tail section passengers. The dialogue is tight, funny when it has to be and just philosophical enough to project ideas without bludgeoning the viewer. Familiar tropes are used, but not overused, from the wisecracking sidekick to the sassy black woman to the assassin who just won’t die.
Chris Evans does a good job with what he’s been given. As a bearded, reluctant leader of a violent revolution, he made a far better Curtis than he does Captain America. Tilda Swinton was a scream, and Kang-ho Song as the security expert added depth and humor to a supporting role. The only low spot was Ed Harris, who slept through his performance.
At times, the film made clever use of its absurdity, with a surreal scene in a sushi bar and an even more bizarre scene in a classroom full of young worshipers of Wilford, the inventor/engineer of the train. Just as you’re lulled into accepting the movie’s strangeness, it manages to hit you with something out of left field that keeps you watching.
The visual style is arresting. Fans of Chan-wook Park (The Vengeance Trilogy) and Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) will really appreciate Joon-ho Bong’s work here. It just grabs you and you can’t help but watch the whole thing.
4 out of 5 stars.