I enjoyed Snowpiercer. Quite a bit. It hovered somewhere between Sci-Fi Channel (excuse me: SyFy Channel) and real-boy movie, which added to the charm, excusing a small handful of poor effects while allowing the story to be wilder than it might have otherwise been allowed to be had the budget been larger. Sure, there are examples of “mainstream” movies I might hesitate to try and explain to someone, but you’re not going to see Sharknado on the big screen – unfortunately – nine times out of ten. I’ll admit this is something I like about Science Fiction as a whole: being thought-provoking while also having a fair amount of slack where narrative is concerned. Maybe as a fan I’m biased and have missed this effect in other genres, so I won’t say as a blanket statement it’s the best, just something I’ve noticed as one who’s more keyed in here than I am, say, Rom Coms.
So the plot. It’s the future. Humans have done something to the world either through a war-based Armageddon or climate change – I don’t remember them out-right saying – where the earth is now a snow wasteland. The only survivors are on a train, riding a line which circles the globe, pariah on the back end of the rails, upper-class near the front. A revolution finally occurs, the lower caste having enough of the fear and the tough-hand of their supposed betters, and a group of fighters from the last cart make a push to reach the front. The man who built the train is worshiped by the wealthy with a prophetic zeal. I know the concept is not necessarily new, but there are a number of similarities to the Bioshock universe which, as a big fan of those, I was pleasantly surprised to see, knowing nothing of the story of Snow going in. People familiar with Andrew Ryan (or even Comstock, though the setting felt more a Rapture than a Columbia) will feel right at home with Wilford and his train.
Each of the cars are a different world the closer you get toward the front: a garden, an aquarium, a set of nightclubs, and what appeared to be an upscale restaurant, each of these again echoing a city in the clouds or beneath the waves. Even the dress of the citizens is exaggerated, at times plucked from a Victorian era, and others an Akira Neo Tokyo. And Hunger Games. Tilda Swinton’s Mason reminds me of what Effie will look like in another thirty years.
The action is well directed. I’m a big advocate for directors just putting the camera down and leaving it be when the fighting starts, but the combat is the right blend, a mix of frantic and pulled-back, allowing for hand-held within the kinetic frays of battle before taking a step away to show the audience the conflict at large. I dug too the use of light in many places, both as an atmospheric tool and a means of differentiating classes as the revolutionaries progressed further into the train. Performances are good. Chris Evans feels mostly like he’s playing a lesser boy-scout Captain America, which is fine, and he isn’t bad in any way. Just the same. John Hurt is a quieter Professor Broom which is also fine. More than fine because I like him. Come to think of it, there isn’t much negative to say about anyone. While a handful of characters are over-the-top, you’re also dealing with an apocalypse train and an army of dudes who look like executioners from a time when the Black Plague was still a thing, so those over-the-top aren’t too out of place. In an effort to further rationalize my tying of Snow to Bioshock, the executioners in their craze and fanaticism are decent substitutes for Splicers, though I prefer masquerade masks, if I’m choosing.
The world of Snowpiercer is an interesting one, and a universe I wouldn’t mind spending more time in. It doesn’t have much need of a sequel, but if the material is as equally interesting and builds on some of the groundwork, I’d be in. I’d be in anyhow, it’s just my level of complaint which would fluctuate. Recommended. One of the better science fiction flicks I’ve seen in a while, and one of the better action flicks too. Even thinking of giving it a re-watch soon. Maybe when we get our first real big snow here. Try and make the experience an interactive one.