Joon-ho Bong have previously directed two films I consider two of the best films ever made. Those are of course Memories of Murder and Mother. I really love The Host, but I tend to prefer more human stories somehow. Even if The Host is a very human story, it can’t stand up to the last shots in the above mentioned films - which still gives me chills, not because they're scary, but because they’re so emotionally strong AND simple at the same time. That’s storytelling to me. With Snowpiercer Bong makes his first English language film, but don’t worry - it’s far from the typical mainstream bullshit. Based on a French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, from 1982 - or maybe, I haven’t read it, it’s more set in the same universe, not the same story. The film is also a co-production between South Korea, France, Czech Republic and the US - so it’s stays on the right side of quality country-wise.
The setting is actually quite absurd. After the earth suffers from a brutal decrease in temperature and everything becomes deadly cold the last survivors boards a train, a train that forever will drive round and round and round and round. During the course of time, or maybe even from the beginning, a class system is formed on the machine, with the elite, the rich and powerful at the front, and the poor and starving at the back. But a revolution is on the way, and lead by Curtis (Chris Evans) and his best friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), the people are slowly pushing themselves through the train - but not without the help by the constantly high locksmith Namgoong Minsoo (the always brilliant Kang-ho Song) and a bunch of other misfits…
Famous already before its release because the American producers wanted to cut it down, to make it more easy accessable for the (according to them it seems) less intelligent American audience. Which is just silly. This is a timeless story, no problem to understand it and the character developments are perfect. They’re needed and they’re important. I’m not totally sure if the Weinsteins got what they wanted, but what I saw was high on both action and drama, which is the perfect combination. Because if you wanna see people kill and get killed, you really wanna know why. Simple mathematics.
For being a film almost entirely set inside a train it’s not that claustrophobic. I mean, it’s a big fuckign train - but width and length. Bong carefully constructs an absurd reality where life goes from darkness and dirt to places so clean it by itself becomes dirty. Chris Evans is a damn fine hero, but far from perfect - which of course is according to plan. No one likes perfect heroes. He also faces a couple of very interesting challenges along the way, and here Snowpiercer goes into Deep Blue Sea territory with killing of characters in an order you just don’t expect. No spoilers really, but it’s a nice detail and it keeps you and characters on the edge. Killing yeah, there’s a lot of it here. Not the most graphic movie I’ve seen, but it delivers on the body count and there’s blood - so don’t worry genre fans. In a couple of places it actually reminded me of Eugenio Martín’s Horror Express, but it’s probably just something far-fetched a person like me could dream up.
Snowpiercer is a visual roller coaster (sorry for that platitude, but I had to use it!) with a fine cast - oh, don’t miss it, because Tilda Swinton is absolutely genius in it! almost forgot her! - and spectacular scenes of carnage, drama and absurdity. It’s fun to see Bong use Paul Lazar again for example, a man who previously showed up in Bong’s The Host in another bizarre role!
A lot of fun, a lot of brilliance. I know it was officially released in 2013, but most release dates is actually during 2014, and that’s my excuse for claiming this to be one of the best genre films of this year. In your face, haters!