Review: Snowpiercer


Director:Bong Joon-ho

Cast:Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho

Running Time:125 Minutes


Snowpiercer is what you get when a studio isn't trying to force a PG-13 rating or overly concerned with setting up spin-offs. In other words, it's a summer blockbuster done right.

Adapted from a French graphic novel by South Korean raconteur Bong Joon-ho (The Host), it's a violent, blackly comic vision of a dystopia that just so happens to be the best of the summer's big action/sci-fi movies.

In the future, a new Ice Age has killed off most of humanity. The only survivors are stuck on the train Snowpiercer, with the obscenely wealthy passengers at the front and the dirt-poor stowaways in the back. Chris Evans, free from the nobility of Captain America, plays Curtis, the reluctant leader of the rear car. He defers not just to his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt) but also waits for the right moment to start the revolt, knowing he could be at the front of yet another failed overthrow.

Snowpiercer is even less subtle than last summer's Elysium "“ which I still like quite a bit "“ yet has more style and substance than that film. Its satire of actual class warfare is as cutting as the axes the rebels and guards use. (It's hard to come by bullets when you haven't been able to make a stop in 18 years.)

The cast is uniformly excellent, and it's especially great to see Octavia Spencer get her revenge by beating a guy senseless instead of serving a pie filled with poop. (Someone cast her in another action movie pronto.) Song Kang-ho "“ equally terrific in this year's The Attorney "“ also shines as the drug addict helping the rebels break the locks on every car. His motivations are murky but not in a way that would betray weak writing. The script is strong, another thing that sets it apart from other blockbusters.

Great sequence after great sequence fills up Snowpiercer, yet it's more than the sum of its parts. While its structure sometimes mimics video games, it never feels repetitive. It does occasionally dive head-first into cliché "“ yeah, there's going to be a slo-mo fight while someone tries to catch a valuable object that's falling to the ground "“ and it's social commentary is sometimes too on-the-nose, but this is still a popcorn film that has it all. 


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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