Snowpiercer is, without a doubt, the best Korean post-apocalyptic movie about class warfare on a Supertrain you will see this summer. Director Bong Joon-ho takes elements from Terry Gilliam, Danny Boyle, Kurt Vonnegut, Fritz Lang, Ayn Rand and many more, and tosses them into a pop-culture blender to produce the batshit craziest cinematic freak-out of the year.
An attempted fix for global warming has backfired and frozen the entire planet. The only survivors are the passengers of a giant train built and run by the John Galt-esque Wilford. The train must circle the world endlessly to keep from freezing. In the front, the paying passengers live in luxury and eat steak, while in the back, the passengers derided as free-loaders live in a shantytown monitored by soldiers, and subsist on loathsome-looking “protein blocks.”
Starting out in a boxcar that looks like a cross between the steerage section on the Titanic (1997) and Auschwitz, the film stars Chris Evans (Captain America!) as Curtis, the reluctant leader of the downtrodden passengers/inmates. John Hurt is his wise old mentor Gilliam(!), and the other passengers are played by everyone who is anyone: Octavia Spencer from The Help (2011), The Guy Who Played Spud in Trainspotting, Grown-Up Billy Elliot, and Korean stars Kang-ho Song and Ah-sung Ko. Tilda Swinton camps it up as Mason, a woman from the front of the train who must deal with the scum in the back.
As the film progresses, the revolutionaries from the back of the train progress to the front, car by car. Can Curtis lead them to the promised land? Will Namgoong succumb to his Kronole addiction? Is the whole movie some sort of allegory? (Probably.)
Snowpiercer is insane, epic, and brilliant. Astute filmgoers will enjoy catching the allusions to other movies. Others will just enjoy the ride – there’s a slow-motion hatchet fight, a great cameo appearance by Alison Pill, as well as a standout performance by Tilda Swinton. Not recommended for the stodgy or squeamish, this is a movie for the weird at heart.
Overall Score: 95
Letter Grade: A