Snowpiercer Movie Review
A train, home to the last remnants of humanity, barrels through an icy apocalypse in Snowpiercer, the new action-thriller from Bong Joon-ho (The Host). Exciting and unpredictable, Snowpiercer is a refreshing change of pace from the typical Hollywood fare, though plot holes and other inconsistencies occasionally knock it off the rails.
Captain America... er, Chris Evans... stars as a grimy and presumably foul-smelling dude who lives in the back of the train, which has been segregated by class and status. Along with his other poor comrades, he stages a revolt to charge to the affluent and mysterious front of the train. After all, whoever controls the engine controls the train.
Evans delivers a fine performance alongside an impressive cast that includes Song Kang-ho, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton. But the real star is the concept, which has been compared to "Hunger Games on a train" but in reality is a play on classic sci-fi analysis of class structure and inequality. As absurd as the premise is, it's also clever, and the execution largely works.
Snowpiercer features several well done action sequences and many other set pieces that range from interesting to downright strange; as Joon-ho leads both the characters and audiences through the train, each car holds its own secrets—whether it's an army of ax-wielding thugs or a seemingly innocent elementary school where the children are taught to sing a song about freezing to death—that keep you guessing. And entertained.
Unfortunately, Joon-ho's vision seems incomplete; the movie transitions between being an action movie and something else entirely, but some of the action sequences—like the bloody battle with the ax-wielding thugs—seem out of place. The decision to be action-oriented actually distracts from the broader ideas Joon-ho attempts to address.
The ending, too, doesn't completely work; Joon-ho hints at doing something more mind-bending and untraditional, but ultimately defaults back to action and destruction for the climax.
Snowpiercer is a fun ride, and its unpredictable nature goes a long way, but the movie fails to fully embrace its concept. As an action movie, it's pretty decent, but it could have been a whole lot more.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.