I am going to preface this by saying that I really like off-the-wall movies. Like, I’m completely in love with them. Donnie Darko, Memento, The Village, Eagle Eye, Pontypool, Timecrimes…the list goes on. I’m a film fanatic in general, but there’s something about that little twist at the end that just sucks me in. If I actually have to map the movie out on a white board to understand it, it leaves me totally reeling and emotionally confused, or has an amazing twist, I’m on board. I think one of the reasons I write screenplays is because there’s something missing in Hollywood that I’m hungry for, and quite frankly, it’s pissing me off. Cue my feverish typing until four in the morning. And lots of coffee consumption.
I’m going to assume that many people haven’t seen Snowpiercer, which is a shame because it really is a work of brilliance, so if you have yet to see it then I highly recommend making a night of it (with snacks, because it gets incredibly intense and you’ll need that popcorn). Also I love Chris Evans and I think he has great potential as an artist, not just as an actor.
So. My opinion. Artistically it’s visually stunning. It starts off incredibly dark and dim and emotionally wasted, but as the film moves forward, the physical environment becomes much more engaging and seems to follow it’s own emotional evolution. That’s really damn impressive for a movie that takes place almost entirely on one train. What I loved was how the characters and their journey were really in sync with their environment. It was the environment that made me want to watch more of Joon-Ho Bong’s work.
The acting was good. Chris Evans has a really moving (and simultaneously horrifying) monologue at the end which freaked me out and reminded me of the true nature of humanity. I loved that. But what is really unique about this movie is the character development: it doesn’t exist to the extent you would expect. You meet the characters when they’re at the end of planning and preparation for attaining their final goal, so there isn’t a huge turn around. It’s not the traditional hero’s journey that you see all too often in Hollywood films and that makes the film intriguing. Because you land right in the middle of the action, you aren’t orienting yourself to the emotional journeys of the characters as much as you’re concentrating on their end goal. And because of that, you feel like you’re one of the characters rather than watching and experiencing their lives. However, I want to disclaim that the lack of traditional character development isn’t detrimental to the movie at all. It really fits with the story line and it makes the movie stand out in a unique and compelling way.
Lastly, my critique from a critical perspective:
I love Chris Evans. And this is not directed towards him or his work, but towards Hollywood in general: what is up with this White savior complex? Yes, I will admit that there’s some diversity in this film. And when I say some, I’m referring to Octavia Spencer, Ah-Sung Ko, and Kang-Ho Song. Everyone else is white and I’m really craving some diversity. Real diversity. Chris Evans is the hero of the story and I really liked the work he did, I just wish that Hollywood would start making room for Black heroes. Asian heroes. Hispanic heroes. Persian heroes. Anthony Mackie (in all of his awesome glory) as The Falcon isn’t enough. Djimon Honsou as Korath isn’t enough. It’s just not.
There is no indication of where exactly the train picks up survivors, but as it’s a world-wide locomotive, you’d expect to see more than just a majority of Caucasian passengers. Unless, that is, the train decided to make a major pit stop in my hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma. I’m going to assume that that’s what happened. Moving on.
The system of class that’s showcased in the movie is such a strong and movie social critique that I want to shove this movie under everyone’s nose and make them watch it. I want to tie people to my living room chair and make them watch it without blinking. I feel the same about Deadgirl, which everyone desperately needs to watch, by the way. I’ve never seen a movie with so much versatility in addressing social issues. Snowpiercer made me feel much the same way, not because of the versatility, but because it highlights how subordination and rebellion can be controlled without outside knowledge and done in very disturbing ways.
As an end note, I really appreciated the lack of an underlying love story. I really pisses me off when films try to add them in as an afterthought. That’s basically why I refuse to watch The Battle of the Five Armies. Get me started on that and I could talk for days. Love is pervasive. It’s beautiful. It’s heart wrenching and human and real and valid. But not every human experience revolves around romantic subplots. You can move through life and have entire periods of existence that are not defined by romantic involvement or longing. So the fact that Snowpiercer was pretty much one-track in terms of the plot was really refreshing.
Bottom line: Watch the movie. Odds are that it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen. Which is basically why you need to sit your butt down right now and check it out. I watch a lot of film and there isn’t much that really sticks out to me anymore, but Snowpiercer was something really special.