An excellent review for SNOWPIERCER from Digitalspy. Love this. Comparing it to Blade Runner just makes my day.
Snowpiercer review: A new Blade Runner? – Edinburgh Film Festival 2014
By Ben Rawson-Jones
Saturday, Jun 21 2014, 2:05pm EDT
Director: Joon-ho Bong; Screenwriters: Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson; Starring: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Luke Pasqualino, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner; Running time: 126 mins; Certificate: TBC
Echoing the dystopian brilliance of Blade Runner and Brazil and beset by remarkably similar studio wrangling over the final cut, Snowpiercer is an audacious, immersive and nightmarish masterpiece. The frankly bonkers concept of society encompassed on one train carrying the last vestiges of the human race is expertly executed with striking visuals, engaging performances and a satirical quality that recalls Terry Gilliam at his peak.
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, the extraordinary American-South Korean co-production unfolds on a train in which the poor occupants live in squalid, claustrophobic conditions. They live on crushed insects and acts of insurgency often result in limbs being hacked off by the authorities. That puts the rush hour chaos on London Underground into some perspective.
The hi-tech locomotive travels around an Earth ravaged by an Ice Age without ever stopping, containing a microcosm of society in which the underprivileged lurk in the back carriages, persistently oppressed and culled by Tilda Swinton’s terrifying governor Mason, while the richer inhabitants live a life of luxury in the front carriages. Chris Evans’ defiant dissident Curtis, cajoled by John Hurt’s wizened and wise Gilliam (subtle namecheck) and helped by reluctant prisoner Namgoong (Song Kang-ho), unleashes a rebellion from the tail end that leads to brutal battles and staggering revelations as the rebels advance towards the train’s front engine in a bid to overthrow the deified ruler Wilford (Ed Harris).
Snowpiercer’s narrative themes are distinctly Orwellian, but its structure feels like a platform video game in which the participants progress from one suprise-laden level to the next. Another fascinating fusion takes place through a ‘future noir’ aesthetic that blends imagery that evokes the ghettos of World War II with advanced sci-fi technology. Not that conventions are entirely vanquished, for the movie is punctuated by gripping and visually poetic set pieces including a magnificently intense fight sequence that unravels through a subjective shot seen through night vision goggles.
Amidst the carnage and affecting themes, director Bong Joon-ho never forgets the importance of character and detail. So often, sci-fi action movies are too absorbed with rushing from one plot point to the next without ever spending time to capture those intimate moments of feeling that require no dialog. One simple glance between Curtis and fellow freedom fighter Edgar (Jamie Bell) during a blood-ravaged clash is captured by Joon-ho’s lens and provokes utter heartbreak at their horrific predicament.
The atrocious environment of life aboard the train is explored well by the screenplay, which culminates in a climactic revelation that pummels us in the gut. The performances from the impressive complement each other perfectly, particularly the contrast between Chris Evans’ tormented figure of few words but much courage and Tilda Swinton’s Thatcheresque antagonist, who delivers sneering lines like “Know your place” to the poor inhabitants in a Northern drawl that’s both amusing and terrifying.
Snowpiercer is a bold and brave film that demonstrates that blockbusters can simultaneously function as stunning spectacle and provocative art that makes us confront the mechanics of the society we’re all currently part of. The best science fiction may take place many years, centuries or millennia in the future, but it always makes us think about the now.