STARRING: John Hurt, Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris

2013, 126 Minutes, Directed by: Joon-ho Bong

Snowpiercer picJust when you think there are no more surprises in life, or at least in the world of low- to medium-budget science fiction movies, along comes this South Korean movie with an international cast which features the likes of John Hurt, Ed Harris and an almost unrecognizable Chris Evans (you know, Captain America) amongst others.

(In case you hate subtitles, then don’t worry: rest assured that most of the film has English spoken dialogue.)

Coming short on the heels of the similarly themed, but very different, The Colony, Snowpiercer is set in a future in which efforts to reverse the effects of global warming have backfired and resulted in a new ice age that killed off most of humanity. The only survivors are the passengers on a high-tech, self-sustaining train (the titular Snowpiercer) which constantly travels around the globe without ever stopping.

Why are the only survivors on a train? It is never entirely made clear, except for that the mastermind behind the science that allows them to survive happened to have a thing for trains. When one thinks about it, there is no reason why they couldn’t employ the same technology in, let’s say, a huge block of apartments. (Then you don’t have to worry about snow on the tracks all the time for instance.)

"One of the best SF actioners we’ve seen in a very long time!"

There are more plot holes, but this is the biggest one though. Setting the action on a train however offers more dramatic possibilities and makes for a more colorful metaphor. You see, life on the train has evolved (devolved?) into a stringent class system in which the passengers at the back of the train has been reduced to abject poverty while the lot at the front lives like the literal one-percenters one always hear about nowadays but never get to meet (well, we don’t).

Well, the passengers in the back aren’t going to take it anymore and plan a revolt. But how to overcome vicious guards armed to the teeth with machineguns when you’re unarmed? There are some surprises in store in case you thinking that Snowpiercer is a simple underdog-versus-sadistic-oppressors movie with Marxist undertones. Unlike most sci-fi action flicks, Snowpiercer doesn’t present its fictional world in simple good vs. evil terms. You’ll have lots to talk about and discuss afterwards.

If you’re worried that Snowpiercer might be too cerebral and dull, be assured that the movie works as both science fiction drama and action movie. Not only will you have protagonists to root for, but some of the best action sequences we’ve seen in quite a while. Unlike many other science fiction movies, the action scenes are never gratuitously violent (see: The Colony) or lapse into uninvolving videogame-style action (see that unnecessary 300 sequel and about 80% of all Hollywood action movies made nowadays).  

Plot holes aside, Snowpiercer is one of the best SF actioners we’ve seen in a very long time. It is simply thrilling, exciting and thought-provoking and a whole lot of other adjectives. Check it today if you can.

- James O'Ehley



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