Snowpiercer Review

Among this week's summer blockbusters, there is one film that stands out from the rest and that is Snowpiercer, a film starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, and several others in a post apocalyptic world where the last survivors on earth live in the massive train Snowpiercer. Snowpiercer is an action film with smarts, heart, and something to say about society.
Snowpiercer comes from director Bong Joon-ho, a Korean filmmaker, who is best known for films such as Memories of Murder and my personal favorite, The Host (not the Stephenie Meyer one). Unlike his other films however, Snowpiercer is mostly in English with only a small portion in Korean. So, if you are allergic to subtitles, do not worry, there is very little reading involved. Additionally, the film was released in Korea last year to critical acclaim before making its way to America in unfortunately limited release.

Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Comic Book, Post Apocalyptic,
Release Date: June 27, 2014 (August 1, 2013 Korea)
Running Time: 125 minutes
MMPA rating: R

The Good: Thoughtful social commentary, Stunning performance by Chris Evans, Engaging action sequences, Darkly comedic, Excellent direction, Well paced, Song Kang-ho's performance is as superb as always, Unique score, Unexpected plot twists throughout,

The Bad: Low budget is occasionally noticeable,

Plot: 9.2/10- On the train Snowpiercer, there is a class system with the rich people in the front of the train and the poor in the back. In the film, Curtis Everett leads a rebellion to take the front of the train and the “Sacred Engine.”
Similar to how The Hunger Games franchises tries to use its setting for social commentary, Snowpiercer makes comments on the class system in the world in general, albeit with significantly greater effect than The Hunger Games. What Snowpiercer reminds me of more than anything is the Bioshock video game franchise. If Bioshock was set on a train, Snowpiercer would be the likely result, which is a positive for me since it is one of my favorite video game franchise. While the social commentary is somewhat obvious, it rarely overshadows the plot, which is filled with twists and turns that you never see coming. The plot moves along at a brisk pace for the majority of the film, but it slows down a bit too much in one or two points, although that is a very minor issue. My only complaint is that the ending is a bit abrupt. Additionally, Snowpiercer is a very dark movie and some viewers will find some aspects potentially disturbing, so do not expect a lighthearted adventure.

Characterization: 8.7/10- Surprisingly, Snowpiercer manages to create compelling and well realized characters in a short amount of time. Curtis Everett receives the most development of the characters. He is a very complex and conflict character yet he is likable for the most part, although his actions are a little questionable at the end of the film. While not as much time is spent with the other characters like Namgoong Minsu and Edgar, they are well realized effectively for side characters.
Action/Direction: 8.6/10- While Snowpiercer does take about 25 minutes before the action starts, once the action starts, it is visceral, brutal, and most thrilling. The first action overuses shaky-cam way too much, albeit less than most other films, but the later action scenes are well choreographed and slow-motion is actually used effectively. However, unlike some other Asian films, the action scenes are not necessarily stunning or revolutionary. During the 20 minutes or so, the lighting is so dark that seeing what is happening is difficult.

Acting: 9.5/10- Chris Evans' performance in Snowpiercer is extraordinary. Evans demonstrates great range and depth in his performance, while still maintaining his believability as an action hero.
After The Winter Soldier earlier this year, Evans continues to impress as his performances develop from one note cocky guys to complex and compelling characters like Captain America and Chris Everett. As for the rest of the cast, seeing my favorite Korean actor, Song Kang-ho, alongside some of Hollywood's top stars was a lot of fun. While he spoke no English during his scenes, he held his own with the other English speaking actors. Jamie Bell continues to be as likable as ever in his role, and John Hurt adds gravitas to film with his performance, although it is a small role. Oscar winning actress, Tilda Swinton (Narnia, Michael Clayton), plays the eccentric upper class leader very well, even if she comes off as a bit too weird at times.

Special effects: 7.2/10- Being that Snowpiercer is a Korean film with a budget lower than the typical Hollywood sci-fi film, the effects are noticeably weak at times. Fortunately, practical sets are used almost exclusively with only a few scenes utilizing CGI. Director, Bong Joon-ho, uses the claustrophobic and narrow environment of train with surprising effectiveness, and the sets are very gritty and dark, but never boring.

Soundtrack: 8.2/10- Marco Beltrami's score compliments the film well with a soundtrack that combines typical orchestral notes with other unique techniques.

Humor: 7.5/10- Snowpiercer's sense of humor is both a strength and a weakness. While the film is certainly dark, Bong Joon-ho's dark sense of humor may not work for some. Additionally, the stark contrast between the people living in the front and back of the train can be off putting due to its satirical way of portraying the upper class, which reminded me of the Bioshock franchise (in a good way).
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10- Snowpiercer's entertainment value for many will vary depending on your personal preference. For me however, it managed to be entertaining for the majority of the film, yet some aspects of the film were a detractor.

Overall: 9.0/10- Overall, Snowpiercer is an intriguing action film with likable characters, heart, and social commentary that actually works for the most part, which results in one of the best films of the year.

Closing comments: Despite my high praise for the film, Snowpiercer is certainly not a film for everyone. Due to the dark tone and eastern style, some viewers are sure to find it just plain "weird," particularly the first 20 minutes.

Recommended for: Chris Evans fans, Sci-Fi fans, Action fans, Comic Book fans, Korean film fans,

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