Movie Review #844: It’s very, very difficult to believe that Terry Gilliam did not direct this one.

By Alexander Diminiano


Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated R (contains violence, brief drug use, profanity)
126 minutes

“The engine is sacred! And Wilford is divine! Wilford is merciful!” – Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer”

“Snowpiercer” is a reveling work of art, a Gilliamesque parable set in the year of A.D. 2031. It has been 17 years since a scientist by the name of Wilford (Ed Harris) dispersed a chemical called CW-7 all across the earth, freezing the entire planet and making virtually all life extinct.

Now every surviving human being is situated on a train headed around the world in an endless continuum. Every time the Yekaterina Bridge is passed, the New Year is declared. And though the surviving population might say it in celebration, it is not a Happy New Year this time around.

There’s clearly a French Revolution concept in “Snowpiercer”, and it’s absolutely brilliant. The rear of the train is occupied by folks who have already received a full education and who are not worthy of working for Her Majesty, Queen Tilda Swinton. She lives up in the front of the train. Whereas the rear of the train houses powerless commoners, who are entirely dissatisfied by every law and living condition exacted on them.

Their tipping point comes when two children are taken from the rear section for reasons unexplained. The only things to keep them from revolting are the doors that have been wired shut, blocking them off from any train compartment beyond the one they have inhabited for the last 17 years. But with the leadership of a brave, fierce individual (Chris Evans), they’re able to convince two skilled drug addicts to unlock the doors, in return for a hallucinogenic known as Kronole.

It’s quite daunting to imagine the entire world as populous enough to fit on a train. The culture has indeed changed because of this. Tilda Swinton shows this better than anyone else in the film. She’s basically this dystopian’s equivalent to Marie Antoinette. She lives an extravagant lifestyle, and formally, she has the power, but at the end of the day, she’s a whole hell of a lot weaker than any one of the commoners. Just watching her snobbish body language is amusing. Even more fun is hearing her talk. Early in the movie, she begins a speech by holding up a shoe. “This is not a shoe,” she explains. “This is disorder. This is size 10 chaos.”

Everything about Bong Joon-Ho’s “Snowpiercer” reminds of a film directed by Terry Gilliam. The performances all seem to create a delightfully offbeat atmosphere for the film. Set decoration, cinematography, and costume design echo both onstage Shakespearean drama and cinematic action-thriller. Though that’s nt quite all there is to “Snowpiercer”. This is a film of many genres. It’s science fiction. It’s a thriller. It’s an action movie. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s a war movie. It’s a neo-western. All in a single awesome packaging.


8 thoughts on “Snowpiercer

  1. I saw this on a plane home from over seas… Flicked past it twice thinking it was a low budget sci-fi move, but was SO SO SO wrong. I loved it… Good acting, great story and some true bad assery. The part when they find out what the protein bars are made of makes me sick to this day…

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