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Movie Review: Snowpiercer

Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho and Go Ah-Sung in Snowpiercer movie still

'Snowpiercer' is good twisted mess, should've been a trilogy


Captain America Chris Evans and iconic veteran British actor John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Alien, Nineteen Eighty-four, V for Vendetta) star in this Korean science fiction action drama set in the future where the world is in a fatal ice age after a disastrous experiment to stop global warming failed, leaving only a very small multiracial population surviving in a huge technologically advanced train that goes around the world perpetually. Due to starvation and brutal treatment by the ones in power, the oppressed people who inhabits the back of the train plan an attack against the elites in front to take over the train.

The concept was inspired by a French novel entitled Le Transperceneige but since it's in French, it's difficult to find out just how much of the movie actually follows the original work. It doesn't matter anyway because director-writer Boon Joon-Ho has hardly disappointed with any his films and it was intended for him to have an impactful English-language film debut here by having him reunited with Kang Ho-Song, whom he worked with for Memories of Murder (2003) and The Host (2006), and Go Ah-Sung who was also in The Host. The movie grabs attention from the very beginning with its intriguing on-a-train setting and the insane, unjust brutality. The cinematography, style and dark twisted humour have Boon written all over it.

Like Hunger Games and Elysium, the film explores themes such as totalitarianism, society class divides, survival, propaganda, revolution and seemingly a few more of its own, all packaged up into this rather unique and interesting premise, with an okay performance by Chris Evans playing the protagonist, Curtis Everett, the leader of the low class people who's determined beat the system and take over the train by forcing their way to the front of the train, one gate at a time with the help of Nam (Kang Ho-Song), a Korean security specialist drug addict who speaks no English. Behind every gate lies unpleasant surprises and difficult obstacles they must face. Great performance once again by Tilda Swinton as Mason, one of the coldhearted top authorities who gives announcements to the low class, feels like Effie in Hunger Games but totally different.

Snowpiercer Mason vs. Effie Hunger Games

The film is thoroughly compelling and sufficiently entertaining to the extend that the poor, long action sequences can be forgiven. Book tried to do a one-shot fight sequence similar to producer Park Chan-Wook's corridor scene in Oldboy (2003) but due to the un-gritty nature of the film, it didn't turn out as impressive. I personally liked the ending where [SPOILER ALERT!] it's almost like saying if you can't take the society or political system, you can try taking your chances living outside of it. It also makes me wonder if something like this could've happened back then prior to the ice ages. Maybe there was already civilisation, destroyed by their own people, leaving only two kids to rebuild human race. [SPOILER ENDS] This is some thought-provoking stuff, I'd have to say.

However, to effectively cram the entire story into one 2-hour film is perhaps too ambitious, which is why I think it would've better if this was a trilogy, or two instalments at least. With the TV-drama-like dialogues and the amount of characters, I could even see potential of it being a series. Too many things are left unexplained despite the long-awaited shocking big reveal at the end. Even this animated short prequel isn't enough. Practically all characters underdeveloped and emotionally unattached with the audience. When any of the characters gets hurt or die, I begun wondering who they are and why I should care instead of feeling anything for them. There are also some flaws and plot and logic inconsistencies, and this (click 'Show Spoiler' below):
John Hurt & Chris Evans in Snowpiercer movie still meme



What I would've named the film: "North Korean Train"

Censorship in Malaysia: Overly graphic shots are skipped, but vulgarities are left uncut.

Second opinion: My girlfriend thought that it was very good, praising the style of the action sequences but agree that too many things were left unexplained.

Verdict: English Films by Korean Directors League match result: Boon Joon-Ho 1 - 0 Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Stoker).

Rating: 4 / 5

Snowpiercer Le Transperceneige 2013 movie poster malaysia releaseBased on: French graphic novel "Le Transperceneige" by Jacques Lob & Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette
Country / Language: South Korea / Mostly English

Rated: 18
Genre: Sci-fi action drama
Running Time: 125 mins
Director: Boon Joon-Ho
Writers: Boon Joon-Ho, Kelly Masterson
Cast: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Kang Ho-Song, Go Ah-Sung

Malaysia Release Date: February 27th 2014 (showing at TGV Cinemas only)
Local Distributor: TGV Pictures
Studios: Moho Films, Opus Picture



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