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Assuming for a second that the unbelievable, and thoroughly science fiction, premise of Snowpiercer has settled in and stopped the more logical of us from questioning its flimsiness, then the movie isn’t really all that bad.

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige is often purposely claustrophobic, overlong and takes a while getting its message across. Meanwhile, the screenplay (by Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson), about a train continuously speeding around the world for seventeen years after a scientific experiment has killed mankind, preoccupies its time on building themes.

The necessity – and sometimes drastic measures – of survival, finite resources, allusion of cannibalism, totalitarianism, division of class, and the desperation of freedom take precedence over racial bigotry.

A scene from movie, "Snowpiercer". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Snowpiercer". – Courtesy Photo

Joon-ho’s slow narrative unveiling answers some – if not all – questions that pile up during Snowpiercer’s two hour running time. However, his approach to the material is flawless as he finds ample moments to play up with restricted bizarreness that’s often found with South Korean directors.

There is pessimistic wit and a clear Western inspiration within the drama – especially when anyone other than the suffering class, talks about the sanctity and near-worship of the “perpetual” train engine; I bet Joon-ho is still getting a kick out of this. He is, without a doubt, slowly inching towards being an auteur. However, right now, he, like the movie, is in progress.

A scene from movie, "Snowpiercer". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Snowpiercer". – Courtesy Photo

I doubt if Snowpiercer could be made any better – or with a better cast. With Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, Kang-ho Song and Go Ah-sung (both of whom worked with Joon-ho in The Host), the cast is international, who add a mix of over-the-top quirks and emotional weight according to their characters.

Well, everyone other than a barely recognisable buggy-eyed Swinton that is, who despite any beefy backstory baggage, deserves a whole star of the movie’s rating for herself. Spencer, a single mom whose child is taken by military men without reason, deserves half-a-star herself. Evans gets fewer reasons to smile, as he – and the rest of the supporting cast (excluding Harris, who arrives late as a closure), decide on taking over the train.

A scene from movie, "Snowpiercer". – Courtesy Photo
A scene from movie, "Snowpiercer". – Courtesy Photo

From a technical and producer’s standpoint, the first half of Snowpiercer looks cheaper by comparison. Shot within strict dimensions of a railway compartment, production designer Ondrej Nekvasil’s use of limited light and gray is effective in putting the image of despondency subconsciously foremost in our mind; a side-effect of this, unfortunately, is that it frees Joon-ho from creating an emotional connection with the audience.

Snowpiercer just simply starts, and keeps on moving forward, until, after a long time, it starts telling us the what, where’s and the why’s. By then, your patience may have dwindled somewhat.


Released by The Weinstein Co. and CJ Entertainment “Snowpiercer” is rated R for bloody violence and desperate themes.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho; Produced by Park Chan-wook, Lee Tae-hun, Park Tae-jun, Dooho Choi, Robert Bernacchi, David Minkowski, Matthew Stillman; Screenplay by Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson (Story by Mr. Joon-ho), Based on "Le Transperceneige" by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, Jean-Marc Rochette; Cinematography by Hong Kyung-pyo; Editing by Steve M. Choe, Changju Kim with Music by Marco Beltrami.

Starring: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris.