Alright, alright. Let’s get this out of the way: Snowpiercer is really fucking great. It’s a goofy, violent ride that feels much shorter than its lengthy run-time and somehow encapsulates precisely what a great sci fi movie should be. It’s a movie funded by the Korean government, directed by a Korean director, largely cast by Europeans and the lead man is Captain America. Go see it.
It’s 2031 and the world has frozen over and humanity’s survivors are the bare few that managed to board a perpetually running train circling the earth.
No one wants to be preached too. This is why we praise politically themed stories for being ‘subtle’ or ‘non-intrusive’. This is disingenuous. It’s not matter of disguise or tone but writing/directing that makes politics intrusive or not. Well written, it doesn’t matter how obvious a movie’s politics are. Snowpiercer wears its issues on its sleeve and delights in it. The poor people are in the back of the train. Their diet consists of blocks of protein and their bunks are layered like sardines. The rich are in the front. Hedonism and excess abound. Class-revolution demands the oppressed fight their way to the front of the train to wrest control of the train from ‘Wilford’, the corporate entity/rich man/divinity running the train’s engine. This is the movie.
The train itself fulfills the sci-fi requirement of kind of cool, kind of silly but engrossing and visually exciting setting. Eschewing any notion of ‘hard-sci-fi’ that demands the mechanics of the future makes sense, Snowpiercer instead just wants to own it’s thematic conceit or otherwise have fun with the idea of a hell-train at the end of the world. The cars don’t really make sense. The living situation does not make sense. Some shots shoot the train as way wider than others. Exterior shots of the train reveal many more cars than our protagonists have actually traveled though. But it doesn’t matter, a setting does not require sense or even internal consistency’ to thrive. The train exists, regardless of wonky geometry, and the Earth has indeed frozen over outside. The camera shows us and an excellent cast sells it.
Snowpiercer is violent. The type of violent that causes the audience to gasp in unison or tense up. The kind that is totally expected but then sudden and unexpected when it actually happens. It is also funny, in a zany, occasionally campy sort of way. There’s times where it’s unclear if you’re supposed to laugh or not. I don’t know if this is simply because this is the kind of movie that gets translated and marketed in the US or if these are actually major traits of Korean cinema, but I feel like every Korean movie I have ever seen is similar. Funny and violent, often at the same time.
Anyway, in case you missed this in the first paragraph. Go see it.