STARRING: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris
Joon-ho Bong’s first English language film is going to blow you away.
“Snowpiercer,” based on the graphic French novel, is a thrill ride unlike we have seen for a while, if ever.
Forget the bombastic brain dead blockbusters like “Transformers” or “Godzilla,” “Snowpiercer” is smart, brutal and intense as a utopian thriller with A-list stars giving diabolical performances.
It’s “Game of Thrones,” “Wizard of Oz,” “Kill Bill,” “Waterworld” and “Alive” all mixed into one, on a speeding train that carries the last remaining humans.
It’s also a story about societal retribution in a world controlled by preordained-position-thinking; Nazi’s anyone? Fact is, this isn’t just about offering up thrills and chills; there is a lot to dig into after the film runs its course.
The year is now 2031, 17 years after a compound called CW7 was released into the atmosphere in an attempt to stop global warming.
The CW7 backfired and froze the earth, and now the only survivors are aboard a train that functions like an arc called Snowpiercer that makes one loop around the country each year.
The half-mile long, 26-cabin train is run from the front by the engineer whose forward-thinking had the design ready and running before the freeze came.
Now it’s a class system, with the poor people in the rear eating nasty leftover food with no view of the outside, the higher class people toward the front and run by a strict military-style system in the middle that demands order.
This is, by far, the best film Chris Evans (“Captain America”) has ever lent himself to. While his lead character mostly just forces the plot forward, he is afforded one emotional scene near the end that proves he can deliver with the right direction and material.
However, there are far better supporting performances here like Oscar winners Tilda Swinton (“Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Help”). Both take on drastically new character roles than we have ever seen them in the past.
Swinton blissfully contorts her face and mouth into the wildest positions, and while her screen time is relatively short she makes quite the lasting impact.
The small details, from the protein bar ingredients to the realization of what lies in the train cars ahead or the twisted view of the engineer, “Snowpiercer” not only sustains the suspense for more than two hours, but with each train car advancement, we learn darker secrets about this new world order.
The concept of a class system on a train going nowhere is an utterly brilliant idea for a film like this.
Bong’s ability to deliver the thrills and an interesting moral conundrum is evidence of his genius as a director.
I know I compared it to a lot of other films, but there is really nothing else like it. In a typical summer of brain dead blockbusters, “Snowpiercer” is the smartest choice out there.
Final thought: Diabolically thriller, well acted; A utopian masterpiece.
Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. More reviews are available at texasartfilm.com.