In the not too distant future, the world is forced to face the effects of global warming. Scientists launch a revolutionary chemical into the atmosphere that will bring the Earth’s temperature back to manageable rates. The plan backfires. Horribly. The Earth’s temperature drops below freezing and all life on Earth ceases to exist.
That is with the exception of those that ride aboard a high-tech luxury train built by the wealthy and mysterious industrialist Wilford. The Snowpiercer, speeding continuously around the globe, is able to avoid the effects of the outside world. But not all passengers are created equally. In the front live the well-to-do passengers who enjoy fine dining, night clubs and medical care. In the back of the train, people live in cramped bunks and subsist on protein bars made of bugs. Everyone is governed by Wilford’s faithful Mason (a fantastic, evil Tilda Swinton with a Thatcher-esque underbite), who rules with thunderous authority.
After 18 years in the back, a rebellion led by Curtis (Chris Evans) and his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) is ready to explode. Insurgencies have happened before, but none have made it very far. But Gilliam has a plan – just break the train’s security engineer (played by South Korean superstar Kang-ho Song) out of prison and have him crack the locks on all the compartment doors.
As the rebel group gets closer to the front, the action heats up and director Joon-ho Bong begins to pull out the big guns. They pile past a schoolroom, a garden, a sushi restaurant, a dentist and a hair salon, and the guards’ counter-attack grows stronger. One scene in particular, where the rebels are forced to fight in the dark, is absolutely exhilarating.
“Snowpiercer” is what so many futuristic action movies try to be: a science fiction thriller with a brain and a heart. It takes influence from the dystopian films of Terry Gilliam with a first act that is filled with loopy characters and bizarre rituals. It feels a little overdone and distracted, but by the second half the film grows into itself. The film’s finale feels a little too obvious, and the outside scenery uses CGI so liberally that sometimes I felt like I was watching a video game. But despite its short comings, it’s still a wonderful movie to catch on the big screen.
The movie is in limited release now, but with solid box office and favorable reviews, hopeful this will come to a nearby theater soon.