Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
Hoards of filthy apocalypse survivors line up to be counted and doled out their daily glob of protein under hostile guard. Two small children are ripped from their parents and a father loses an arm in the most torturously imaginative way possible for throwing a shoe. Welcome to Snowpiercer.
Or rather the tail section of Snowpiercer, the massive ark-like train that rattles through the frozen wasteland of 2031 Earth in Joon-ho Bong’s wildly inventive adaptation of French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige. By turns hilarious, repulsive and heart-wrenching, Snowpiercer is the ride this summer needs.
The front of the Snowpiercer, we learn, is inhabited by the smaller, richer class, rather like a hellish horizontal Titanic. It’s the front where Chris Evans’s Curtis aims to lead a rebellion to with the help of Jamie Bell as Edgar and elderly mastermind Gilliam, played by John Hurt.
Tilda Swinton rounds out this strong cast as the villainous Mason who early on deigns to visit the tail-dwellers to remind them of their proper place. Mason is a cinematic joy every moment she’s on screen, really laying the groundwork for the type of people running the train and rallying the audience to Evans’s side. Swinton has a ball as Mason who genuinely sees nothing wrong with The Order of the train and she chews the scenery with relish (and grotesque false teeth).
When the rebellion is up and running in earnest, director Bong has a flawless grasp on pacing the big action confrontations with the smaller marvels of exploring a train literally encompassing all life on Earth. The battle set pieces themselves escalate as though the audience is along for a really satisfying video game, with all the pitfalls of slicing through armies of minions only to have the level shift before you, revealing a surprise big boss. I recommend seeing this film in a packed house for the sheer number of Oh Shit! Moments this film packs in.
Finally though, not enough can be said of Evans’s performance here. Likely in the beginning of this rebellion to have been involved for physical strength, his Curtis attempts to resist leadership at every turn. And yet the more he loses as he progresses through the train, the more his will is honed and Evans’s eyes gradually give way to a man who has nothing to lose. A third act speech regarding Curtis’s early days on Snowpiercer is devestating and classically told without flashbacks. It’s all Evans’s reading of some truly nightmarish details, not unlike the Indianopolis speech in Jaws. I’d put money on this film having the single most repulsive sentence you’ll hear on screen this year. Incidentally, after 2007’s Sunshine and last year’s role in The Iceman, Evans is increasingly becoming my goto for the anti-summer blockbuster when he’s not Avenging. When he puts down Cap’s shield, audiences really need to pay more attention.
Snowpiercer is currently playing in five US cities with plans for expansion listed on the film’s official website , check it out when it gets near you!