I’m really not one to buy into hype. I know what I like and while I do seek out films that peak my interest, I seldom bow down to conformity and buy into things that people universally say is good. Namely, I don’t like “South Park”, I believe that Seth MacFarlane is overrated, the same goes for Zack Snyder, and when people beat on things that are universally “hated” I usually bring up a counterpoint to either pose a challenge that will force the attacker to turn defensive and either call me a dick, or simply slink away and talk sh*t behind my back, which I’m fine with. But as a reviewer, and a contributor to this site, I have to buy into hype sometimes in order to bring an audience to the site. It’s all about the views. This brings me to “Snowpiercer” one of the most-hyped films of 2013 that still hasn’t been widely distributed. It’s a polarizing film, no pun intended, that is full of allegories, pseudo-science, and reminds me of nearly every sci-fi/action film I’ve seen the past 20 years.
“Snowpiercer” takes place 18 years after the Earth has been frozen over due to a failed experiment that was supposed to solve the Global Warming crisis. The survivors of the world-wide freeze have all been placed on a high-speed train created by the Wilford Corporation that travels around the world on an endless loop. A social system has been put in place where the tail end of the train includes the poorest of the poor, including Captain America himself, Chris Evan, who plays Curtis, a man who has seen it all and is looking to start a revolution with the help of Tin-Tin (Jamie Bell), Kane from “Alien” (John Hurt) and a few other stars that will leave you wondering, “They’re in this movie?”
Of course I’m being snarky about this film, because at times it takes itself a little to seriously. And that isn’t a bad thing. “Snowpiercer” is supposed to be a social commentary about the folly of science and the way humans interact with each other in the time of crisis. It might even be fair to say that this might be one of the most important sci-fi films since “Children of Men.” The downside of “Snowpiercer” is that the commentary is extremely heavy-handed, and at the same time, almost an afterthought in some scenes. It’s almost like it’s trying to find a balance between the two, but can’t decide what kind of movie that it wants to be, and that is where it gets a little muddled.
This isn’t to say that the film isn’t good, there is actually a lot of good in “Snowpiercer.” If you took a Terry Gilliam film, took elements of “Cube,” “Children of Men,” “City of Lost Children,” “The Hunger Games,” “Bioshock,” “300,” and put it on a moving train, ta-da; “Snowpiercer.” The acting is top notch for an sci-fi/actioneer, including a performance by Tilda Swinton that SHOULD go down as one of the best of the year. The train itself is also a wonder to behold. You don’t often see multiple sets created for a film. It’s either done via green screen or practically in a pre-exsisting environment. There is craftsmanship in “Snowpiercer” and that is most appreciated where nothing is built by hand anymore, just computers. The set designer(s) should be highly commended for their work in this film.
However, with all that I like about “Snowpiercer” there are still problems with predictability, unfinished plot elements, and an ending that is simply “meh.” It’s a film with a lot of big ideas about the folly of science, how man interacts with each other, social hierarchy, and looking for hope in hopelessness, but it kind of boils itself down into an action film on a train that also reminds me of “The Raid.”
How will “Snowpiercer” be remembered by the masses? From what I’ve seen so far, it’s quite……polarizing. People seem to love it for it’s style, use of allegory, and production value. Other people hate it for it’s overuse of allegory and to be honest with you, simply because the film is being talked about by so many people. Sure, it’s a cynical perspective, but we live in cynical times where people are going to poke holes in anything that other people might enjoy. “Snowpiercer” isn’t perfect, and maybe about 20 minutes too long, but if you look past the idea that the film might be trying to say too much, it’s an enjoyable and all together original take on the post-apocalyptic film genre.
Fun Fact: “Snowpiercer” is based on the 1982 French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige.”