No spoilers here !
Remember Metropolis, the great silent film by Fritz Lang, and probably
the most revered science-fiction film of all times ? Well, if
Snowpiercer is not such an absolute masterpiece, I do believe it's the
best reiteration of the same concept that made Lang's film so unique :
asking questions about the condition of mankind in a futuristic
society, and how it does and does not evolve as compared with current
It's good that not all near-blockbuster scale sci-fi films do not come
out of Hollywood anymore. Snowpiercer is based on a long-forgotten 70's
French graphic novel. The Korean director got his hands on a bootleg
translation in a Seoul bookshop while filming The Host and got totally
hooked. The end product is a French-Korean production, in the making of
which one of the authors of the original graphic novel got directly
The plot is simple : ecologist freaks have pushed governments to
unleash a gas in the atmosphere to control global warming, this proved
so effective that the world is now a standalone, snow-covered giant ice
cap. The only survivors are all aboard a revolutionary train that goes
on and on making loops around the world. It's like Noah's Ark, but
including the politics that come with it : first class, second class,
workers, fraudsters, the ticket is your fate - for generations. And the
consequences are extreme, to such and extent that you can't conceive.
Prepare to be shocked at times. Imagine the vertical multistoreyed
humanity of Lang's Metropolis, the horizontal way. Some of the tail
section fraudsters decide to rebel against their condition and progress
to the head car of the train regardless of the risks. Every car they go
through bears its grotesque and mind-bending surprises. And tells us
more about how this society actually works and what it relies on.
This film has style. Even though it reminds of Gilliam (see 12 monkeys)
and Matsumoto (Galaxy Express), there is real personality and
originality. CGI is limited to a few breathtaking scenes that really
add up to the storyline. Acting is mostly excellent, especially by Ed
Harris and John Hurt. But most importantly, this film triggers
reflection, soul-searching and debate like true Sci-Fi gems should.
Unlike most Hollywood films, it is not Manichaean : the story and
morals are complex and debatable. You heart keeps swinging for scene to
scene as you learn more. The ending asks a lot of questions.
All in all, when the end credits start rolling, it's a film you want to
rewatch, not because you haven't understood, but because you want to
understand more, and experience more.
Wow, i honestly did not expect much from this film from the trailer.
The message seemed one dimensional, and the whole 'action' bit from the
trailer wasn't really that impressing. Only thing that dragged me to
the theater was the director's name (also the great cast), and i am
happy to say that i'm pleasantly blown away by director Bong once
again. The film looked great, the first half was beyond thrilling, the
acting for the latter half was just, top notch, the action was bloody
and fantastic, and most of all, the ideology behind the story was
interesting to say at least.
I can't really say anything more than that since saying anything beside
the trailer would be a dead giveaway, but really, wow.
I honestly don't know how the director's unique style and choices would
get to the American audience, but as a person who enjoys this strange
and beautiful execution of director Bong, this film fulfilled
everything i want from Bong's film an intellectual Sifi film. It gave
me a handful amount of things to think and talk about, and those kinds
of films always give me the best film experiences. Definitely one of
the must watches of this year.
Okay, so I get this film had some things to say about class and
privilege and the lengths people will go to in extremis. However, in
wanting to tell a story that makes points, you simply cannot ignore
common sense and physics in order to produce your setting.
In Snowpiercer, the world has frozen due to scientists meddling with
the climate in order to stop global warming. This I can buy, given the
explanation at the very start of the film.
What I can't buy into, however, is the fact that all of what is left of
humanity is crammed onto a single, gigantic train, that runs in a
year-long loop around much of the world.
For one thing, the creator of the train has, apparently, invented a
perpetual motion machine. Never mind the impossibility of this, let's
just think about it for a moment. A machine that runs forever and,
presumably, produces more output than it requires to run it. So he puts
it in a train? Give me the proverbial effing break! An engine such as
that would easily power a small community which could then produce more
such engines and so on... until there is plenty of power to keep the
But, I guess a train allows for the video-game like linearity of the
story's progression, so to hell with common sense, right? There are
plenty of plot holes to mention as well.
The disgust shown by Chris Evans' character when he learns that the
protein bars they've been eating for years are made of insects. I was
expecting him to open the container and find dead bodies being churned
into food, a la Soylent Green, but it was just bugs. You know...
insects, those things that a considerable part of the world consider a
part of their diet without issue. This unexplainable disgust is
compounded later when Evans reveals his character actually used to eat
people in the early days. What Chris? Eating people is less disgusting
than bugs! Say it ain't so! Another stupidity is the length of the
train. We see a good number of train carriages during the hero's
journey, but there are far, far more when you see the ludicrous corner
scene, where the train goes around a long bend just so that good guys
and bad guys can shoot at each other across a huge gulf. But the bad
guy was only about three carriages behind the good guy? Terrible
continuity for the sake of a pointless action scene.
We also see chicken and other animal carcasses hanging from hooks in a
cold car, but nowhere do our heroes ever come across the live animals
that they must have somewhere in order to provide the meat.
It's also supposed to be so cold outside that flesh freezes solid in a
matter of minutes, yet at the end, all that is needed to offset this
absolute zero effect is a fur coat. (Apparently they also have furry
animals somewhere on the train too...) In short, this film is so full
of holes. Some so big you could drive a train through.
As I said at the beginning, by all means use sci-fi to tell a story,
but don't make the setting so ridiculous that it invites scrutiny. And
if you do, then be prepared for people to point the flaws out.
This film had a number of things to say, but the setting and plot holes
detract heavily from it, leaving you frowning at the foolishness of it
SUMMARY: Setting invented by a small child. Plot has more holes than a
sieve. Unrealistic fantasy marred by incompetent attention to detail.
Try it at your peril!