When last did you have your mind blown from a film? When was the last time you legitimately gasped audibly after seeing a movie? For me, it happened when the ending credits rolled on Snowpiercer. I was expecting a unique, but unremarkable action thriller. What I experienced can only be described as transcendent, idiosyncratic and plain insane. I was not prepared for Snowpiercer. I thought I was, but the rainbow of emotions I experienced from watching this film drove me crazy – it may very well end up on a list of the greatest films of all time. I will do my very best to explain why this absolutely incredible film was an enormous surprise.
Living in a world where cinema is mainly dictated by Hollywood and other western productions, we sometimes overlook the fact that there are some incredibly talented filmmakers all around the world. One of which is Bong Joon-Ho, a South Korean director who has proven himself to be a particularly talented director with Mother and The Host, the latter a terrifying monster movie homage. He exposed his talents to the mainstream all around the world with Snowpiercer. Adapting the graphic novel, he tells the story of a train containing the last human beings in existence, broken up into various class systems – the poor belong to the tail of the train, and the rich belong to the front of the train. It is scathing political commentary, and if it accomplished nothing else, it is that it manages to speak about our society and ideologies in a very unique way – it is subtle, but the issues of capitalism, socialism and politics are incredibly prevalent throughout the film. I won’t go too deep into the political subtext of the film, but it is certainly the element that surprised me the most – it managed to be not only a well-executed action film, it was a smart film. It is unique for a film such as this to have any glimmers of something deeper, so of course something constructed around politics would be unique. Just one of the dozens of ways Snowpiercer is a brilliant film.
Tilda Swinton. That’s all I need to say. I have been a fan of Tilda for a very long time, and she constantly surprises me with her chameleon-like acting talents and her elegant personality. Here she gives the role of a lifetime (but let’s be honest here – every performance that Tilda Swinton gives us is the role of a lifetime – she is that good) as Mason, the androgynous minister of the train who is so gloriously evil but also so damn funny. Tilda takes a character written as a simple male character and turns it into a fully-fledged basket-case. Every single moment Mason is on screen is a delight – Tilda gives this performance absolutely everything in her arsenal, and for such a brilliant actress, that is quite something. Mason was one of those characters who you just relish every moment you share with them during the film, and she elevates the film above absolutely everything else. This film made me love Tilda Swinton even more, which I thought was impossible. It just goes to show how some performers are so good, they continously surprise you. Consider that this year alone, she has played the lead (Only Lovers Left Alive), a supporting character (Snowpiercer) and a memorable cameo (The Grand Budapest Hotel) and was brilliant in all of them. It is just further proof that Tilda Swinton is excellent in everything she does.
But the film isn’t just about Tilda – in fact, the entire ensemble is incredibly strong. Chris Evans proves he is not just a Marvel superhero, and shows his acting abilities here as the brave but damaged Curtis Everett. Smaller roles by Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer and Ed Harris as the sinister antagonist of the film all add some much flavor and layering to an already complex film. The actors are clearly doing this not for the paycheck, but because they each realize this is a very unique film, and I wouldn’t be surprised to have seen all of them sign on just for the experience. It is a unique ensemble that is eclectic, but still so very endearing. It is one of the most unconventionally brilliant casts of the year, and one that was filled with great surprises from the actors.
This is not a Hollywood-cliched production. It had faint glimmers of mainstream blockbuster, but it was very clear Director Bong was going for something much more transcendent. He added a lot of homages to Terry Gilliam in the film’s visual style and the tone – it feels just as apocalyptic and surreal as films like Brazil and 12 Monkeys. The story and pacing itself were completely reminiscent of the Asian filmmaking that Director Bong is an expert in – it is a traditionally Asian film – action-packed, smart and filled with twists and turns and a lot of unexpected moments. It is of course incredibly quirky as well, and has a bitter sense of humor throughout it, whether that was intentional or not. It may, on the surface, feel like a blockbuster, but as the story goes on, the complexities increase, turning it into an odd and dream-like experience, and one almost entirely absent from mainstream action films.
Snowpiercer is unbelievably good. It truly impressed me. It may take some time to get used to, but when that spark of genius hits, you are taken on an extraordinary, exhilarating ride through a world that is both unique and terrifying. It is definitely one of the best films of the year, and quite possibly the best. I adored this film, and have to say everyone needs to watch this film – not only is it incredibly entertaining, it is also extremely thought-provoking and brilliantly smart. An absolutely brilliant and extraordinary film like no other I have ever seen, and doubt I will ever see the likes of again.