By: SnowPiercer & Moho Films
Seen on: April 30
Snowpiercer has three things I absolutely love: Tilda Swinton, Chris Evans, and a post-apocalyptic world. This combination got me really excited. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite deliver. It did on certain parts, but then it didn’t on others. Let me try to explain how this works for me…
Snowpiercer is a film about a train. That train constantly runs on a track that is exactly one year long and holds what is left of humanity. 17 years earlier, the world leaders thought they had the solution to global warming and instead they threw the entire planet back into the ice age. Literally. The only survivors are now on this train, the Snowpiercer, that has become something resembling a society. When boarding the train, every person was assigned a class, ranging from first class to “the tail end”, so resembling is the keyword here.
Chris Evans plays Curtis, the leader of the latest revolution. He lives in the tail end and has devised a plan to take over the train by forcing their way to the very front and taking over the engine. It’s bad at the tail end. There’s no light, no privacy, no room, no food (apart from unidentifiable blocks of something, that later turns out to be bugs and insects), and no water. It’s dirty, noisy, and miserable and every so often a few children are taken to god knows where to never return. The revolution isn’t a surprise and it isn’t the first one either.
That brings me to two things this film really delivered on: the pace (even though the end scene took about half an hour too long), and Chris Evans. Firstly, the revolution starts fast. No waiting around, no endless talking and planning, the movie starts when everything is ready to go and the perfect moment comes soon. The revolution itself is wonderfully done. It’s fast, but takes time to really emphasize certain parts and let them sink in. The balance between exposition and action is perfectly done. There is just enough story to not be overwhelming or difficult and there is just enough action to be interesting without it becoming gratuitous. And the film makers aren’t afraid to show the raw reality of a revolution: violence, blood, and sacrifice. Well done.
Secondly, Chris Evans does a wonderful job portraying the brooding, planning, reluctant hero. It is wildly different from what we have grown accustomed to see him do, what he’s known for despite other, more grittier roles in indie films. Roles like in Captain America, Fantastic Four, What’s Your Number, Not Another Teen Movie, even The Losers; he is always the funny one, the sweet one, the good one. Not this time. Not to say Curtis is bad, but he has done some really, really horrible stuff to survive all those years on the train. And Curtis is not sweet or kind or funny in any way, at all, and Chris Evans pulls it off. A fantastic departure of his “usual” roles.
It is also Chris Evans who makes the ending worth sitting through. The last scene is too long and feels disjointed from the rest of the film, but Chris Evans’ emotional speech about his past and what he has done is brilliantly delivered. He plays the inner turmoil and disgust and despair at finding out what is really going on very subtly and convincing, and that makes up for the off feeling you get from the rest of the actors in those scenes.
And that is exactly what is wrong with this film. The other actors. Not that they’re bad, not at all, but they feel wrong. I can see what the film makers were aiming for, especially with Tilda Swinton’s character, but they missed the mark wildly. There wasn’t enough bizarre to add that layer to the whole film, there wasn’t enough dystopia to create a well rounded world. It wanted to be like Edward Scissorhands, but it never quite was. Somehow it felt like the film makers couldn’t choose between bizarre and realism and just went with whatever they felt like on the day of shooting. Too bad, because what should and could have been a “1984” type film has become some sort of hybrid thing and that’s a shame.
Tilda Swinton does a brilliant job with what she was given, but it wasn’t as impressive as her other work. The two Korean actors fell flat and John Hurt didn’t have enough screen time to truly shine. All the other actors just didn’t impress me at all. Not one of them stood out. And with the recipe of a tight, closed space of a train and the storyline of a revolution, I expected more than what I got.
There were a few scenes and details that were done really well though. The fight sequence between the tail end and the guards of the water compartment was very well done and looked amazing. The different “worlds” of the separate compartments were set up very nicely and really brought that sense of class and society. The punishment scene where a man gets his arm frozen off is brutal, and the school scene is simply bizarre. The total lack of action from the first class passengers as the tail end passengers made their way down the train was both strange and interesting; it reminded me of Wall-E, where humans have become so complacent and lazy they don’t care about anything but themselves and their immediate needs. The plot twist with the children at the end was nice and I didn’t expect that, and I liked that the film makers aren’t afraid to kill off people and be brutal. Points for that.
All in all, I would recommend watching this film, if only for Chris Evans. He really does surprise a good way, and I hope he continues to be offered roles like this. I would love to see him do more layered characters where he gets to keep his shirt on. Don’t see it for the plot or the other actors, it’s really just an average film then, but see it for Chris Evans and be impressed. If you’re a dystopia fan, you will like it a bit more.