Posted under: EIFF
Bong Joon-ho's filmography is alien to me, and most people, but that's fair enough considering he is a South Korean director. The difference with his latest, Snowpiercer, is that it's in English. Considering that previous English South Korean films have proved to be flops and considering that the premise for this sounds rather daft, it's carrying quite a lot of baggage when it stops in Edinburgh. However this film, about a giant train, is a remarkable treat.
Based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige, the Joon-ho written and directed film has a rather odd and daft premise indeed; following a second ice age, all life on Earth has been made extinct. What's left of human-life is packed onto a giant train, divided by class. On the back of the train (the lowest class) a revolution is forming, in which Chris Evans' Curtis and the other train tail rejects are getting ready to breach and move forward through the train in order to take the front. As Evans puts it, "We control the front. We control the world."
There's a multi-ethnical cast behind the film including Academy Award-Winner Octavian Spencer, South Korean star Song Kang-ho, the UK's very own Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Jamie Bell and, of course, Captain America's Chris Evans leading the whole crew.
Behind the camera, we also have talent from all over the globe with Before the Devil Knows' Kelly Masterson producing and on script duty alongside the gifted Joon-ho who is writing and directing!
With a career packed with some pretty major and rather exceptional South Korean films, Joon-ho is no stranger to his work but, with this being his first English film, there are some doubts but Snowpiercer moves along as fast as the bullet train it is set on! With its dynamics and absurd conception, it betrays Korean cinema and feels a lot like a typical Hollywood blockbuster. It looks wonderful too - the exterior shots of the train barrelling through this icy, snow scarred post-apocalyptic world and each carriage, so minutely detailed. The effects are superbly integrated with the sci-fi theme to add a hint of beautiful surrealism to the whole thing and the action and trouble that Evans encounters is thrilling and a whole lot of fun to watch!
But, visual aspects and plot aside, it's the purpose of the film that is its strength. Each carriage posing new threats and wonders for Evans and Song's security maestro, with Go Ah-Sung as his wide eyes daughter, their desperation and struggle, to reach the front, increasing each time. Their opponents include the badass, suited and booted Vlad Ivanov and Swinton as the train's mouthpiece, all about precision and order "So it is." It's another extraordinary cameo to add to her collection.
There are many incredible scenes, but the most memorable one in the film is probably when Evans and Song are sitting outside the gate to the front of the train, Evans talking about what the tail of the train was like 17 years ago (2014 when it first left). He talks about how the people used to eat the weak. It's a dark, grim but really powerful scene that is silently moving as you feel sympathy towards these helpless, abused people stuck in the back of the train. The cast, with their excellent performances, help make it more believable. They also make the wrecked future theme more believable too - their awe to cigarettes, fish, schools etc.
Snowpiercer is audacious, thrilling and shines in brilliance and ingenuity. A remarkable piece of cinema from Bong Joon-ho that is not to be missed!
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.