This is what all good science fiction action filmmaking should aspire to be. Snowpiercer, the English language debut of Korean master Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Memories of Murder), takes it’s time to get moving but rewards your patience. If the premise doesn’t sell you, you’re not alone. Initially, I too had difficulty buying the ridiculous premise of the entire world’s population confined to a single train circling the planet. However, once it gets past the setup and exposition, the film finds its groove and turns into a surprisingly stylish and thoughtful action movie. Cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong deserves props for conjuring the film’s steely visage. Although I could have done without some of the incomprehensible action scenes, the cliché “The Thinking Man’s action movie” is an apt superlative.
Snowpiercer works better when viewed as a carefully constructed study of classicism, religious fanaticism and even ecological horror. A myriad of wonderful performances from an eclectic cast, led by Chris Evans in probably his most memorable action role outside the Marvel movies seals the deal. A near unrecognizable Tilda Swinton adds another bizarre concoction to her character stable. Bong staple Kang-ho Song is a riot. John Hurt plays another variation of his grizzled mentor while both Octavia Spencer and Jamie Bell impress in bursts. Still not sold? Then think of it as The Raid with a big serving of social commentary.
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Screenwriter: Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson
Cast: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer
Producers: Tae-sung Jeong, Tae-hun Lee, Steven Nam, Chan-wook Park
Running time: 126 minutes
Companies: The Weinstein Company
Rating: R for violence, language and drug content.