Snowpiercer. In the future, as global warming takes hold, a third of the world’s nations decide to release a gas into the atmosphere to lower temperatures. This act backfires and a deep freeze kills all of the population of Earth. Except for a few. These few live on a train (ostensibly the Snowpiercer, though not named so in the film). It circumnavigates the globe annually, coasting over the frozen tundra of Asia and Africa. This train has a self-sustaining ecosystem, the culmination of one man’s life-long dream.
On the train, people toil away. Dirty. Feeding only on black gelatinous nutrient bars. Desperate for a change. They’ve been there for seventeen years, since the freezing of the world. But they know that there is a better life further up the train. Soldiers and a loud and obnoxious bespectacled indoctrinist try and convince them that they should be satisfied with having their lives, and not concern themselves with where and how the soldiers live. Resistance is met with amputation, a punishment which reduces one’s means of productivity, further limiting prospects.
The seemingly obvious plot provides all the action one could swallow, while a brilliant sleight of hand spikes the brain with all the clues to the mysteries of the characters. In that action floats some inspired cinematography, highlighting the brutality of life. Protagonist Curtis has a simple mission: to penetrate the depths of the train and kill the rich industrialist that has enslaved everyone he’s known for half his life.
The crescendo of the film is built upon stunning revelations presented through an emotional monologue. Although we know we’ll need to sit through verbal exposition, when Oz’s face is revealed here, it’s more satisfying than The Architect’s speech from The Matrix, and more transformative to the world of the film.
Snowpiercer seems initially to ask us “which train classes correspond to which real world classes?” but ends up asking something more basic: how much would we risk to be free? Should we light the whole world ablaze to rid ourselves of the classism and economic inequality that exists? Is there another way? This film is built of the stuff of thinking.
Film Score: 4.1 (Out of 5)
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