*The last paragraph expresses short analysis for those who don't want to sit through the long read* The real question isn't whether this film is worth seeing, but whether it is the best film of the year.
Only 8 theatres in America were showing this film. Luckily for me, that expanded to 150 theatres and one of them was in my hometown (The Magic Lantern Theatre). Boy, am I glad that I saw this film.
The film has one of the more original stories I've seen in a while. In a nut shell, Snowpiercer is about a dystopian future that stemmed from a failed Global Warming experiment. What we are left with is a world frozen over that is uninhabitable. Of course everyone on earth dies. . . except *insert dramatic pause for effect*. . .a chosen few thousand who board an insanely high tech, self sustaining train. A hierarchy system is immediately established and after years of those living the back of the train enduring impoverishment, they decide to form a revolt to get to the front where the first class lives.
Where this film really excels is in its dark moments. I'll be honest, and let you know that this is precisely why some don't like this film. Its dark nature isn't for everyone. Though, those who understand the implications should love it. Snowpiercer could have just gone dark to be flashy and an empty form of provocativeness. Instead there is some real depth and questions of existential nature that stay with you long after the movie is over: What type of sacrifices would you really make to save the innocent? How low can humanity go in savage filth and is humanity worth saving all together? Where this film is really bold is in giving its answer to these questions not verbally, but by action.
These implications are shown brilliantly by the amazing performances from the actors. The poster boy for the film, Chris Evans (Captain America), gives the best performance I have ever seen him give. It is not quite Oscar worthy, in my estimation, but there would be no complaint on my part if he was nominated. Everyone else fills out their roles really well, especially Tilda Swinton playing one of the baddies, and John Hurt playing one of the veteran revolutionary leaders.
The visuals are also quite extraordinary. I'm not talking about the CGI which could slightly be improved for today's insane standard, but I'm talking about the set pieces. I rarely if ever talk about set pieces, but I need to here. The whole film is one big set piece and it is beautiful. Each car leads to something new and interesting and bring a sense of awe into this film as if just like the passengers you are experiencing it for the first time. The camera work is also to be admired. The long shots, use of perspectives, and heck, even the small sprinkles of shaky cam are great.
If there is a major flaw, I'm not sure if I would want to find it. At first glance, the down time of reflection and action stacked upon each other could appear overly formulaic almost like the hooks connecting the train cars themselves. Upon second viewing this isn't the case. The story flows very seamlessly. It is a real shame that Harvey Weinstein, American distributer of the film, wanted to take 20 minutes out of this beautiful film (the shameful reason for its limited release). It would have been watered down and not given us a true representation of the society they live in. Thank goodness the director, Bong Joon-ho, stood up and didn't let that happen. What we have is a truly beautiful film, even if it is only being shown in a few theatres.
Where the film slightly falls short is in the believability of a certain point. When it comes to telling the premise of this film to others, I've been trying to exclude the part about the train traversing the entire world. Yes, you heard me right – the entire freakin' world! Yes, I know. This is highly implausible. . . Or is it? When I researched into, this is more likely than it seems. Though, *spoiler in highlighted section*, the diagram used in the film isn't as plausible as one would like. Who knows, though; the elitists could have been exaggerating. I know a certain level of sustaining disbelief is needed in these type of films, but it could have been slightly more realistic in their presentation, such as using a double cross over with a tunnel through the Bering Strait (the small piece of ocean between Russia and Alaska). When it comes down to it, this is only a minor blemish on the film at best. I just had to bring it up, for the sake of having an explanation for this film not getting a perfect rating.
Every once in a while you come across a movie so beautiful, so entertaining, and so provocative that you need to watch it again as soon as you can with some you know after seeing it the first time. This is that type of movie. Snowpiercer is phenomenal. It is not this description in the sense of everything is the best, but is the best in what it needs to be. The execution of its premise is phenomenal. Its willingness to go dark whether others won't is phenomenal. Sure the premise is slightly far-fetched, but everything comes together to make Snowpiercer the best film of the year so far. I urge anyone who reads this to seek this film out immediately.
Personal Preference: 5/5
How Well It Was Made: 4.75/5