Director: Bong Joon-ho
In alignment with this week’s theme of Korean films and / or directors, Snowpiercer is an obvious addition to the list. Snowpiercer is brought to us by Korean director Bong Joon-ho, who crafts this cinematic masterpiece as a South Korean-Czech science fiction thriller. Based off of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, this telling story was re-written for the screen by Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson. Snowpiercer is Joon-ho’s English language debut and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the most expensive Korean production ever.
The film stars the familiar Hollywood face of Chris Evans (Captain America) who plays the protagonist Curtis Everett. We are submerged into a post-apocalyptic world that suffers from a second Ice Age, due to humans’ efforts to engineer the climate in an attempt to control climate change. The last inhabitants of the earth have boarded the Snowpiercer: a train powered by perpetual motion that endlessly circles the earth in a last ditch attempt to avoid human extinction.
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Inevitably the societal hierarchal structures that existed in the ‘old world’ creep their way onto the train and its inhabitants become separated by class and wealth. Curtis, inhabiting the lower-class tail end of the train, along with a hoard of other unwashed and starved proletariats, is under constant watch from the Snowpiercer’s creator, the ominous Wilford.
Conspiring to escape with his mentor Gilliam (played by John Hurt), and fed up with his low quality of life, Curtis leads his fellow bottom-class friends towards revolution and they plan to make their way to the first-class section of the train and escape their life of poverty and despair. Overpowering the guards, a small group of inhabitants, including a security expert and a clairvoyant girl, begin their journey to the front of the train only to be met with a new struggle at each cabin and a rather shocking confession from Wilford himself at the end of their journey.
Drawing on themes of cannibalism, survival, and dictatorship, Snowpiecer navigates its way through some pretty heavy content, although it never falters in its efforts to impress and the film feels believable and subtle despite this. Plus each scene is beautifully detailed—especially the in-car aquarium and shots of the train shooting through snowy and abandoned landscapes.
Although the film is an allegory, and an obvious one at that, it still sends a powerful message about unfair and unequal exercise of wealth, power, and privilege that prevail within society. It speaks to many modern areas of concern in today’s world, such as the ongoing debates over climate change and the unequal distribution of wealth between the East and the West: concerns that won Joon-ho and Masterson awards for Best Director and Best Screenwriters at the Asian Film Awards of 2014, and Joon-ho Best Director at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival of 2013.
If you’re a fan of the Dystopian Action-Thriller, Snowpiercer might be an option for you.