Snowpiercer features Captain America Chris Evans as a very different kind of hero. The world has fallen under the spell of a man-made ice age when a chemical was released into the atmosphere to thwart global warming's wrath.
The exact opposite happened and now the world’s only survivors are stuck on a train circling the globe. Where they are on the train depends on their position in pre-disaster society. It is not pretty where the poor live -- the back. Director and co-screenwriter Joon-ho Bong has managed to craft a tyrannically run train speeding through a real world Frozen that is a mirror of our caste-like society today.
Evans, John Hurt. Octavia Spencer and Jamie Bell are our eyes, ears and taste buds (you'll see) for life in hell on this bullet train of survival. We know they will explode in revolt. And the first wave of tension arrives with the question of when.
Bong masterfully weaves plot, character development, action and compelling battle scenes that recall Great War dramas -- all in the confines of a train.
Evans is fantastic. His hero is one who is reluctantly leading, yet seems to be destined for the role. Bong shows us why so brilliantly laid out over the course of Snowpiercer. Evans’ rise is explained in words and action, and when he has his moment of simultaneous clarity and calling, it is powerful and not at all what you would expect.
The supporting cast rivets. Snowpiercer feels like an Oscar-bait film with its ensemble, message and landscape. Yet, it also firmly belongs with being released in the summer months amongst the thrillers, action fests and feats of heroism that are quite “super.”
Hurt plays an old sage, but he portrays him with levels of complexity that will leave you wondering about everything from his backstory to his core motivation. Bell is a fantastic supporting actor, and he does much of the motivation-delivering for Evans and his rise to hero. Spencer brings the humanistic aspect to her role, and fills the back of the train with an emotional current that swells with traditional values, such the human needs of family and community.
We'd love to tell you about Ed Harris, but that enters spoiler territory!
Then, there’s Swinton. She finds a whole new level of excellence. We’re afraid Oscar voters won’t think back to late June to rightfully give her another shot at Academy Award gold. She deserves it beyond a reason of a doubt. Her Margaret Thatcher-esque turn as the woman who is trying to stave off a revolution is the stuff of legend. In her mind, she is no villain. She is a realist. And that is just the beginning of her fatal flaws.
Overall, our Snowpiercer review can report, the film arrives in theaters as an announcement of the filmmaking and storytelling talents of Bong. The Korean-born artist already has a hit on his hands with this film internationally and it’s about time that America caught up and made him a director who always has us asking, “What’s next?”