Uncovering Curiosities: Bong Joon-Ho’s SNOWPIERCER

Before the multi-award winning Parasite, Director Bong Joon-ho delivered Snowpiercer, a post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller set in a desolate future where the remnants of humanity circle the globe on a non-stop train (the titular Snowpiercer). Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer is a social commentary on the class system, politics, power and control and while it makes some valid points, it ultimately feels like a pretty average sci-fi film. 

Set in 2031 after the world has been turned into a giant ice cube when an attempt to stop global warming goes awry, Snowpiecer sees everyone’s favourite Avenger (Chris Evans) leading of a ragtag group of tail passengers as they fight their way to the front of the train to take control of the engine (and therefore humanity). 

Snowpiercer chugs along at a steady pace, keeping instep with the forward momentum of its rebellious passengers. However, the film runs a little long at 2 hours and 6 minutes and I strangely have to agree with producer (and vile human being) Harvey Weinstein (God help me!), who wanted the film trimmed by 20 minutes. That would have made the film a little tighter and less ponderous in the mid section. Ironically, this argument with Weinstein saw the film getting shelved before scoring a vey limited big screen release in the US and it’s only now hitting the UK on blu-ray (most of its $86 million worldwide gross came from South Korea and China). 

Director Bong has loaded Snowpiercer with an impressive cast (Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ewen Bremner) but they’re not given a lot to do. Each actor is playing a sketch and an archetype and only Swinton’s cartoonish character makes any real impact. Snowpiercer’s biggest dead weight is the casting of Chris Evans as the leader of the rebellion. Evans is a charisma void in the film and while he undoubtedly helped score the film’s $40 million budget, he remains its weakest link. You just don’t buy him as the man that the train’s lower class passengers would rally around to lead a rebellion. Where’s Keanu Reeves when you need him?

Director Bong’s film features some good special effects along with strong visuals and set design. There’s a Terry Gilliam influence evident throughout and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that John Hurt’s wise sage is named after the former Python. Snowpiercer’s last act also sees a visual homage to Irvin Kershner’s The Empire Strikes Back, with an integral set echoing the style of the that film’s Carbon Freeze Chamber. 

I wasn’t as blown away by Snowpiercer like many and I found it an adequate and enjoyable enough science fiction movie. However, I didn’t feel that it added anything new to the post-apocalyptic sub-genre but you can’t really knock Bong Joon-ho’s film as it is well intentioned and well formed.