Post-Apocalypse has become its own genre. The best stories under this umbrella don’t focus on the hows or whys, but rather the new world order that evolved out of this cataclysmic reset button. Cormac McCarthy understood this with The Road, and director Bong Joon-ho understood it with Snowpiercer. Snowpiercer shows the class system developed from survivors living nearly two decades aboard a luxury train, and does so flawlessly.
An attempt to stop global warming backfired, putting the entire planet in a premature ice age. The remains of humanity live on a nonstop train, the Snowpiercer, where a new class system has developed. The elite in the front, the underclass in the rear. Curtis (Chris Evans), having lived half his life on the train, is sick of the squawler he and the others in the tail are forced to endure, and leads a revolution.
Snowpiercer is an excellent human story, executed perfectly, though there are some presentation imperfections. The focus, and rightfully so, is the class system, and the ideas and reactions spawned from it. It’s this element where the heart of the story lies. Aside from a few quick sentences of exposition, the story begins by showing the civil unrest, not explaining it. The filth of their living condition is readily apparent, avoiding the bland sheen of cleanliness, a trapping many movies have fallen into lately. Their anger and disgust was visible, palpable.
Chris Evans was an interesting choice for the lead. I couldn’t help put compare him to Captain America, despite the different window dressing. Cap and Curtis had many qualities in common, leadership, moral compass (ish), drive, etc. By then end, I was convinced Curtis wasn’t, with his monologue sealing the difference. The story overall, including the third act reveal was impactful, explaining much of the status quo, and how it came to be.
There were a few weaknesses though, not related to the script. The snowy landscape outside the train looked decent far away, but terrible close up. Much of the violence wasn’t shown, despite the R rating. For instance, when Andrew’s (Ewen Bremner) frozen arm was smashed, Joon-ho chose a reaction shot, rather than the action. Likely a budgetary concern as some later battles were horrifically violent. After the shootout, how did Franco (Vlad Ivanov) catch up so quickly? Did he teleport? The ending (the last minute), which I won’t spoil, was a bit of a let down if any logic was applied.
Fun facts: The final, end credits Shawarma diner scene in Avengers was filmed two weeks before its premier. Evans was sitting with his hand covering his face because of his beard, as he was filming Snowpiercer. This is based on a series of french comics from 1982 entitled Le Transperceneige, by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette.
Snowpiercer is a fantastic human story that works on multiple levels. Despite some logical or execution failings, the script and performances are solid, making this a much watch. Make a point to watch this movie.
Did Evans feel too much like Cap? Did the third act work for you? Comment below!
Why did this take a year to release in the States?