A failed attempt to counteract the effects of global warming cause the world to freeze over. The only people left are on a train designed to keep running forever. We come in 17 years after the disaster, where the train has organised itself into a social hierarchy.
Chris Evans plays one of the unwashed masses at the rear of the train, plotting a revolution. Take over the front of the train and you take over the whole thing.
Whenever I see a concept film like this I always have lots of questions I want answered. How do people survive? Why haven’t they revolted before? What’s on the rest of the train? Why did this exist in the first place? How much to people remember from before the train? Snowpiercer scratched all the itches I had in a subtle but unambiguous way.
The journey we go on as we follow the characters through the train is a heavy handed metaphor and it’s often predictable. However, it’s nonetheless very entertaining. The collision of worlds comes as no surprise yet you just want to see what’s behind the next door.
We’ve seen the idea many times before. A varied cast of characters (the reluctant leader, the mother looking for her child, the techie, the old guy, the mad one with a back story, the kid) all pulling together to kick against the pricks. To use a recent example, one might call it Hunger Games on a Train.
However much like The Hunger Games films strong writing, a good cast and confident direction elevate Snowpiercer from the rest of the chaff.
Chris Evans is good as the leader and John Hurt is equally well cast as the wise old man. Tilda Swinton stands out as a scary combination of comic relief and sinister henchwoman.
All of this does come paired with the slow realisation that the ending just isn’t going to be that good. The last half hour of the film turns out to be a long drawn out affair as no one is quite sure where to take things. The premise of having a train you can work through section by section has the audience inevitably thinking about the end, even from the start, and from that aspect the film is doomed from the get-go.
If you’re like me however then train rides are more about the journey than the destination, and Snowpiercer is one hell of a ride.