On July 18th, Joon-ho Bong latest work will finally pierce North American theater screens.
But if on one hand ‘The Host’ director’s new movie is named after a beautiful flower, the film on the other hand is a relentless and bumpy ride that will shake you by its graphic violence and its visual mastery.
Based on the the french graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer relate the story of Curtis, the leader of a boiling uprising, set to free mankind’s last survivors. In the wake of a missed climate-change experiment that left the earth frozen and dead, the last humans live aboard the wagons of a perpetually moving train circling the planet. But 17 years after the train’s departure, mutiny is brewing in the caboose where the poorest passengers are struggling to survive, while the upper class lives a fancy life of decadence. Curtis, cold and calculated, leads his co-voyagers in a violent and fanatic traversée, wagon by wagon, to reach the locomotive and put an end to this unfair class system.
A South Korean wonder… thanks to an international production team.
Out almost a year ago (August 1st 2013) in South Korea, Joon-ho Bong’s film is an original and in some ways, an astonishing piece of work that won’t let you remain indifferent. Produced by the USA, France and the Czech Republic as well, Snowpiercer has a fresh originality that is more than welcome in the Sci-Fi genre of today, thanks to its Korean provenance. And it should came as no surprise to any connesseurs to see the name of Chan-wook Park in the producer’s list. Add to that a stellar international cast, music by Marco Beltrami and a script that grips you for most of the film and you get bold and daring entertainment.
A visual feast… a perfect cast
It might sound funny, but from the opening credits of Snowpiercer, there is a floating feeling of visual mastery. And as it goes on, Bong’s flair is undeniable. Even when the story lets go, the visuals are truly amazing, making the ride unforgettable. The sets, the lighting, the camera: every aspect is a mesmerizing threat for my eyes that kept me glued to the screen. The cast is no exception.
To accompany viewers along the ride there is, in those last wagons, an impressive palette of passengers like Chris Evans as the boiling Curtis, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ewen Bremner and Kang-ho Song. The list of notorious passengers from the upper class that has to deal with this impromptu mutiny includes Ed Harris, Alison Pill and on top of it all, Tilda Swinton. From Evans’ subtle personification of the leader to Bremner’s over-the-top performance, both primary and secondary actors form a perfect ensemble that drives the audience deeper in the adventure. Not to mention, Swinton’s incredible, or maybe memorable is the better word, performance.
A Slick Story
Sadly, nothing is perfect (or almost nothing) and Snowpiercer is no exception. If at first the universe is rich, detailed and coherent, it doesn’t take long before some aspect of the story loosens, forcing the viewer regrettably to lower his expectations after the first minutes pass. Somewhere along the way, I was forced to accept that the original richness was gone and that things slowly drifted away with an increasingly fanciful and simplistic script, focusing instead on the acting and the lavish visuals. In the end, the grip lost its grip and the tightness wasn’t there anymore, leaving me with a regular good ol’ sci-fi story. Good is good… but when a film starts off so amazingly well, it is hard to accept the changes without criticism.
Still, Snowpiercer is a one of a kind sci-fi ride that is both entertaining and engaging. Above all, it is a fresh piece of work that deserves attention and an audience to appreciate it. So think twice before wasting any money (and brain cells) on a Transformer movie with dinosaurs… there is a better way to satisfy your Science Fiction needs thanks to South Korea.
Snowpiercer opens nation-wide on Friday July 18.