Get out your protein blocks and future crack, we're reviewing Snowpiercer!
After humans have inadvertently caused another ice age, the only survivors are those aboard a train called "the Snowpiercer", that has an everlasting engine and makes one full ride around the world each year. Curtis(Chris Evans) is one of the people on the tail end of the car, those that are the bottom class and are treated as though they're living in an internment camp. But Curtis and others are massing a riot to take over the engine and break the system. Can they pull it off?
Holy crap you guys THIS IS GREAT. This is an incredible sci-fi premise, a great story, and a beautifully done movie. Mostly it's a telling metaphor for how the rich manipulate the system to control and fuck over the poor. Who knew a story with the premise of "Dystopia on a train" would lead to such a fantastic movie?
When we first meet Curtis in the tail section, it's dark, dingy, and disgusting. You get a real sense that these are the dregs of society. There's so many people crammed into this tiny space and forced to live on synthesized goop, and the train authorities take away citizens or punish them as they please. All while shouting the mantra that they belong in the tail section because that's where they're from. It's sickening and disheartening and just wrong on so many levels. It's not until half an hour in and the revolution is under way, that they take back a couple of train cars, are instantly blinded by the outside light. It's then you realize the tail section has no windows. How long as it been since any of these people have seen a glimpse of the outside world? Years? Decades?!
The aesthetic of this movie is amazing. It's astounding how this society can go from disgusting dystopia to decadent, wasteful utopia in the span of a few train cars. You see how people are controlled and shuffled into dark corners and then you see these giant opulent rooms with tons of space and utilities. It would be so easy to spread the wealth around, but the rich have a mindset that they deserve this opulence just because they already have it. It's not even that they want this wealth, they are burdened by it. It's disgusting. It's horrifying when you've spent so much time with the main characters who have struggled for basic human necessities and then when they get to a schoolroom car, a child spouts some opulent bullshit that tail enders are lazy, good for nothings that don't do any work. This is a perfect metaphor for the kind of world we live in right now. And I'm speaking on this from a place of privilege, but still, you have shit like Fox News blaming poor people for causing all the problems in the world when the rich white dudes hold literally all the power. What I'm saying is that Snowpiercer will really resonate with a certain type of person. It's no wonder that his movie didn't get a wider release.
Other than the fantastic metaphor, it's just a really well done movie. It's beautifully shot and it's got a TON of great action. You'd be surprised how much action they can fit into such a small space and BOY do they really FILL IT. Full-on bloody riots with hundreds of people in the span of a few hundred feet. It is brutal. That's another thing I love about Snowpiercer, it's a brutal uncompromising movie. It gets SO dark and SO brutal. So many people die! And when you hear Curtis's backstory for why he doesn't want to be leader, I mean WOW. Chris Evans cries and you believe him crying and you just want to cry with him and stroke his beard and take his shirt off I mean...uh...BRUTAL KUNG FU FIGHTING AND JUNK.
This is an intense movie and it goes to some seriously dark places, but there's also no rape or child molestation in here, which I feel like is refreshing in this kind of movie? I mean in a post-apocalyptic dystopian story it is SO easy to lean on the crutch of rape so your story is darker. And while I don't necessarily want to give this movie a No Rape Award or something, I do want to use this as an example to other movies that you can still go dark, depressing and brutal WITHOUT having to go the rape route. It can be done! This is how!
Chris Evans really pulls this movie together. It's mostly his story and it's horrifying to see how far he'll go and the depths he'll fall to to get this done. He doesn't want to be a leader, but he will do anything to free his people from oppression. He's a grizzled hardass at the start and he just gets harder. It's horrifying to see how he goes from being sort of good natured and quippy to tired and beaten and just done with it all. He MAKES this movie. But along with Chris Evans, there's a stellar cast of John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, who disappears in her role as the horrible Mason, Octavia Spencer, and Kang Ho-Song, who I've liked since The Good, The Bad and The Weird. And it's also a diverse cast! Sure a straight white dude is the main character, but there's also black, Asian and Indian characters representing. Ho-Song doesn't even speak english! Curtis has to finagle a translator for them to work together.
This is a brutal depressing movie. But it's also a fun movie. There's lots of funny bits and nice moments and tons of great action. It's in that perfect sweet spot of movie that's a dark satire on life but is also a fun movie to watch multiple times. I can't recommend seeing this enough. If it's in your city, see it. It's also on demand on multiple devices!
THE GOOD: Great sci-fi premise and social satire, great brutal action, great acting, Chris Evans nails it, beautifully shot, fun, great CGI.
THE BAD: Might be too brutal for some people if you can't take that sort of thing.
THE VERDICT: $$$$$ See it! This is an instant sci-fi classic. it's fun, it's depressing, it's a great movie.
MOVIES LIKE IT: Children of Men, Equilibrium, 1984, The Road, Gattaca, In Time
ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: They get to the train car where they produce the protein blocks that feed the tail end. Tons of people go crazy gobbling them up because they're only allowed one protein block a day. Then Curtis and a few others find out what they're made of, and he makes them swear not to tell everyone while holding back vomit. Later, they get to eat sushi, which Mason explains is only served twice a year because they need to keep the ecosystem in the aquarium in a delicate balance, alluding to how the tail end of the train is controlled. Curtis takes away her sushi and makes her eat a protein block.