Sunday, 17 August 2014


I just watched an advance screening of the sci-fi / action film, Snowpiercer. I loved it. At some point I'd like to write a bit more of an in-depth (and spoilery) analysis of the film, but for now I thought I would just write something short just to urge you to go see it.

Snowpiercer is a (mostly) English language film directed by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. He's one of my favourite directors - proabably most famous for 2006 monster / family comedy movie The Host. His 2009 film Mother is an amazing film that made me sit up and really pay attention to his work.

Snowpiercer is a dystopian science fiction film set in a future where an effort to combat global warming results in catastrophic global cooling, and the paltry remainders of humanity is forced to live on a train that perpetually loops around the entire world. The society on the train is rigidly stratified between carriages, and the film follows one Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) who leads the population from the 'tail end' of the train on a violent revolution against the rulers residing in the 'front' carriages.

Like any really good science fiction, Snowpiercer uses its quite literally loopy futuristic premise as a framing device to make commentary on contemporary issues. The film is unabashedly allegorical, and while watching it you might recognise similar themes from all kinds of diverse sources - Atlas Shrugged, Bioshock and The Hunger Games to name a few things that popped into my mind while watching the film.

Where Snowpiercer excels is how it sticks to the conventions of the genre, mimics the form of so many science fiction triple A blockbusters, and yet pushes just hard enough to deliver moments of stark brutality, darkly absurd comedy, and genuinely thoughtful commentary that are missing from so many other triple A Hollywood blockbusters.

I love films that are tonally ambigious. My experience with Korean films is mostly from film festivals, so obviously I don't know what the domestic film industry in Korea is like. I've only seen things that have managed to escape the domestic audience and enter into international circulation. But from what I've seen of Boong's work and his compatriot Park Chan Wook (another favourite director of mine, and one of the producers of Snowpiercer) is that they are masters of deftly managing a mix of tones so that in the same scene there can be moments of horror and slapstick and you will not know what you are cringing at.

I don't think I can continue writing about this movie without really spoiling it. I do urge you to go see the film - it has already broken block office records in South Korea and has been given a tremendously positive critical reception.

But I will leave you with a clip from the movie if you need more convincing. This clip encapsulates so much of what the film is like, featuring the phenomenal Tilda Swinton eating up scenery as the laughable, repulsive and yet captivating Minister Mason. This is a scene from early in the movie, after a resident of the 'tail' section throws a shoe at a high ranking official (I told you it was topical), and his allocated punishment is to have his arm frozen off by 7 minutes of exposure to the frozen wasteland outside the train.