"Snowpiercer's theme is not necessarily a new one, but the unique take on the theme, along with the visual feel, create an exciting and new experience."
After a global warming experiment backfires, nearly all of Earth's population is wiped out due to a worldwide freeze. Only the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a constantly moving train, survive. Seventeen years later, a group of survivors fights to restore their rights as humans, and change the train's deplorable caste system forever.
The Snowpiercer is broken up into sections. Some sections contain necessary supplies, one contains a classroom, and there's even a dance club section; however, these sections are also divided by class, with the lower class occupants forced to live in fear. This section's citizens are fed nondescript protein bars, live in crowded conditions, and face the possibility that at any time, one of the train's authority figures will swoop in and make their lives even more miserable.
Yet, with only a few exceptions over the train's seventeen-year run, nobody on the train disobeys this pre-determined structure. That is until Timmy, the son of a back-of-the-train dweller, Tanya, is plucked from the rest of that section's children by a mysteriously evil woman from the train's front end. Before being torn away from his mother, Timmy's measurements are taken, suggesting he will not simply be moved to the front of the train for any positive purpose.
Tanya rallies together with some of her friends, including Andrew (whose son and arm have also been taken from him), Gilliam, Curtis, and Edgar, and the group decides that they must revolt in order to rescue the children and claim the freedom they all deserve.
Snowpiercer is based off of Le Transperceneige, a French graphic novel. Knowing that it was inspired by a graphic novel explains some of its quirkier moments. For instance, one of the early fight scenes is both graphically violent and also strangely comical, set in an odd slow-motion type style. This style makes the film seem more like the pages of a graphic novel have come to life. Some of the characters are also over-the-top caricatures, but they work thanks to the excellent source material and the overall tone of the film.
Tilda Swinton plays one such character, Mason. Mason often storms into the rear of the train, dictating orders in a gleefully devious way. Her features are exaggerated, as she sports big teeth which she often shows off when she gives a goofy, yet mischievous grin, and even bigger glasses. She shows no pity or compassion, and can peacefully watch someone be maimed and then go about the rest of her day as though she merely gave them a simple warning. Then there are Namgoong Minsu and Yona, two preserved addicts who are the group's only hope in making it through the doors that separate each section of the train. They balance comic relief, gumption, and pain as they journey through the Snowpiercer.
The film is directed by Joon-ho Bong, who became known among American audiences after directing the successful South Korean monster film The Host. Snowpiercer also features two of that film's stars, Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko, who play the duo of Namgoong Minsu and Yona. While Snowpiercer is, in many ways, different from The Host, there are enough parallels in plot and tone to delight fans of the earlier film.
Snowpiercer's theme is not necessarily a new one, but the unique take on the theme, along with the visual feel, create an exciting and new experience. One of the most entertaining parts of the film comes with the opening of each new door. The audience is as in the dark as the characters, never knowing if something sinister, funny, or disturbing will be revealed. Snowpiercer is a wild ride and a roller coaster of emotions from start to finish.
Review by Entertainment Writer and Film Critic, Bethany RoseShare: