Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. South Korea/Czech Republic/USA/France, 2013. SnowPiercer, Moho Film, Opus Pictures, Stillking Films, CJ E&M Film Financing & Investment Entertainment & Comics, CJ Entertainment. Screen story by Joon-ho Bong, Screenplay by Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson, based on the Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, Jean-Marc Rochette. Cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong. Produced by Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by
It was only a matter of time before Bong Joon-ho would follow excellent films like The Host and his masterful Mother with an English language debut, much like his compatriot Park Chan-wook did with Stoker not long before him. That the best he could come up with was yet another in a long line of allegorical dystopian-future movies, with a peon rising from the bottom to take on the powers of the elite, is a huge disappointment. Marvelously executed, gorgeously visualized and featuring a wholly impressive cast, this is a film with a number of delights but very few surprises, an arthouse Elysium (to name but one) hampered by a melancholy tone with few bright flourishes and an overwhelmingly dull performance in the lead by Chris Evans. In the years after most of humanity has been wiped off the planet by climate changes that have plunged all of Earth into icy winter, the few remaining survivors live on a high-speed train whose tracks cover the entire globe. The majority of the people on this endless journey live in squalor towards the rear, eating plain, tasteless food for subsistence, constantly dirty, always in the dark and responsible for keeping things moving along. They suffer, but the train’s engine is the key to their survival and as such has taken on religious significance for them as well as for the soulless officers who execute the grand master’s law and order. When Evans organizes a rebellion to get himself and all his fellow stragglers to a better spot on the train, and maybe even take on their great leader, it begins an adventure that moves through the various cars into the more elite sections where life is much better for fewer people. It’s inventive but rarely clever, a diverting but hardly inspiring work whose class allusions feel more judgmental than insightful and whose twists are never in any way novel. Tilda Swinton is memorably loopy as the woman who keeps the commoners working as representative of the big boss, her frantic eyes, goggle glasses and spacy delivery one of the more creative touches the film has to offer, and the rest of the cast is rounded out by John Hurt, Alison Pill, Jamie Bell and Bong regular Kang-ho Song.