Movies are often described as an experience. You watch movies expecting to be entertained or leave with a more philosophical view on life and humanity. Movies are capable of all that and more. When you come across a movie like Snowpiercer, it becomes one of those unforgettable movie experiences that keeps relentlessly striking you at your very heart and soul. It’s emotional from start to finish and the characters leave lasting impressions on you for days.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho and based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer is set in a post-apocalyptic world where earth has frozen over and is uninhabitable. The only survivors are those living on a train running on tracks that spans for miles in a never ending loop. The train is divided up into a class system where the impoverished live in the tail end of the train under poor conditions and mistreatment, while the wealthier inhabitants are residing in paradise at the front of the train. Under the leadership of Curtis Everett (played by Chris Evans), he and the tail section of the train stage a revolt to push their way to the front of the train and to confront the creator of the train and its hierarchy Wilford (played by Ed Harris).
The movie is chock-full of high-tension and evocative moments, from the shocking to the very tender. The injustices the tail end train inhabitants go through is acutely felt throughout the entire film and you’re constantly cheering on Curtis and his followers to succeed. Just try not to get too attached to characters in this film. The death toll is really high and many barely make it out alive. With a cast that boasts the likes of Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt it’s extremely difficult to remain unemotionally attached to all of them. Whatever brief time you get with each character in the film, the actors make their scenes count and you’re equally distraught as Curtis is every time he loses a follower and a friend.
Like most post-apocalyptic movies, it explores the dark side of human nature and what people are truly capable of when they’re placed in between a rock and a hard place. Is there still room for mercy? Can we do the unthinkable for the sake of survival? Would we rather live in a structured, Darwinian class system if it meant we’re still living and breathing, or would we rather take our chances in an icy and desolate landscape that has more freedom than the shelter of a train does? The movie gives you plenty to think about.
Curtis has been through a lot and has seen just how much his own people have suffered. There’s a great scene towards the end of the film where Curtis tells his story and experience of living in the tail end to Namgoong Minsu (played by Sang Kang-ho), who designed the train’s security system. You truly understand where Curtis is coming from and how far his pain really goes from living one way of life for eighteen years. There’s a ton of anguish, anger, and hate bottled up inside and it comes bubbling to the surface when he finally meets Wilford. Curtis is on the side of what’s humane and just, while Wilford argues a case for structure and doing what’s necessary to ensure the survival of their kind. It doesn’t matter if his methods are right or wrong.
In the final moments of the movie, Curtis has to decide whether to destroy the self-contained society that has been built on this train ever since the world has frozen over or keep it intact with Curtis himself given the opportunity by Wilford to take over as the leader and operator of the train. The last scene in the film is one of those “open for interpretation” endings where it’s up to you to decide the fate of the characters.
The story and cast makes the movie an exhilarating ride, as if you’re on that train yourself. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to go back and rewatch for a different perspective or have your emotional insides get twisted and turned at every direction. Snowpiercer is a must-see if you like entertaining and smart films in your movie watching experience.