Don’t you just love it when a film completely surprises you and exceeds your expectations? Snowpiercer did both, it’s one of the best science fiction films I’ve ever seen and certainly one of the best films of 2013. Director Boon Jong-Ho has crafted a world so vivid and broken that it’s hard not to get swept up in. Admittedly I don’t watch an awful lot of cerebral-engaging films, when I do it’s a treat, this film is a real treat and one to get you thinking about morals, class, the way different social classes are treated and our commodities.
An all-star cast that includes Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris, battle against a class system that overrules the Snowpiercer, a super-train that circles the globe after a post-apocalyptic ice age has left the world uninhabitable, and the remaining survivors onboard. One man stages a revolt, an uprising that will turn the tide for the train and the future of civilisation. For the first twenty minutes I wasn’t quite sure where the story was going, I felt as if I’d missed something, it had an almost TV-movie like feel and to be honest I didn’t want to continue with it, that was until Tilda Swinton appeared.
Whilst Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and the supporting cast do wonders with highly captivating performances, it’s Tilda Swinton who steals every scene as Deputy-Minister Mason. Swinton looks almost unrecognisable, again immersing herself into a fascinating character that comes off as a concoction of nightmarish politicians from over the years, but with a quirky, thick Lancashire accent. It’s a jaw-dropping transformation, Swinton’s little quips, vices and gestures all add up to create an unforgettable screen character that stands as one of the most inventive, strange yet eminently watchable.
I thought the film was going to be solely set in the lower class section, that was until the scenes where the uprising breaks through into other sections of the train began and blimey was I taken by surprise. The set design landscape visuals are tremendous, the thought and imagination gone into this movie is wonderful. Hydroponics, spas, clubs, saunas, sushi bars, the Snowpiercer itself is a world filled with wonder, and when you juxtapose it to the frozen world outside you find yourself thinking is it better to be out there or inside where the fragility of civilisation hangs in the balance?
Director Boon Jong-Ho is a masterclass at stirring suspense and shock, the fight scenes where the lower class fight against troops onboard in darkness feel like something out of The Raid. These fights are wonderfully choreographed and brutal, you find yourself rooting for the good guys hoping they don’t fall a victim. One scene that is disturbing and harrowing takes place in a nursery carriage, where a calm teacher turns into a gun-toting maniac, a shootout ensues against the backdrop of childish innocence.
With an explosive, loud and chaotic finale that left me literally standing up instead of sat down feeling reserved, Snowpiercer just keeps on delivering surprise after surprise with thought provoking themes and stylish action.