“Two decades into a second Ice Age, a few thousand human survivors live out their days aboard a state-of-the-art luxury train in Snowpiercer, an enormously ambitious, visually stunning and richly satisfying futuristic epic from the gifted Korean genre director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder).” So begins Scott Foundas‘s review in Variety of this “rare high-end sci-fi/fantasy pic made completely outside the studio system, and that even rarer case of an acclaimed foreign helmer working in English with no appreciable loss of his distinctive visual and storytelling style…. Adapted by Bong and Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows Your Dead) from the 1982 graphic novel [Le Transperceneige] by authors Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer has been brought to the screen with the kind of solid narrative craftsmanship, carefully drawn characters and—above all—respect for the audience’s intelligence rarely encountered in high-concept genre cinema except when directors like James Cameron, Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro are at the helm.”
Writing for Screen, Jason Bechervaise finds Snowpiercer to be “an enthralling ride that never runs out of momentum as it cleverly examines the issue of social class in a thoroughly engaging, yet complex manner.” It “takes place on a train called Snowpiercer that is powered by a perpetual-motion engine, which circles the planet after the earth enters an ice age following a failed experiment to stop global warming. A class system soon evolves on the train with an elite class inhabiting the front of the train led by a mysterious figure called Wilford, while the less privileged reside in the back who are subjected to impoverished living conditions.”
Via the Playlist, an animated special establishes the world of the film
“Though it was never going to be a sunny ride, the sheer desperation, violence and madness on display throughout Snowpiercer‘s 125 minutes make it one of the most dystopian films we’ve seen in quite some time,” writes Pierce Conran at Twitch. “Following the disappointment of Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand and the lukewarm reception of Park Chan-wook’s meticulous chamber piece Stoker, Bong Joon-ho has created with Snowpiercer the most accomplished overseas work of any Korean filmmaker to-date. While it remains to be seen whether or not mainstream western audiences will embrace Bong’s dark and ferocious genre film, in many ways he’s already beaten Hollywood at its own game. A tour de force of science fiction, Snowpiercer is a singular and breathtaking cinematic experience.”
Update, 7/24: “Bong’s vivid depictions—aided by Ondrej Nekvasil’s production design, Hong Kyung-pyo’s cinematography and Steve M. Choe’s editing—are exceptional, adding to a film that is as much about philosophical reflections of an age of social and moral collapse as it is about blockbuster-friendly, CGI-enhanced sequences,” writes Clarence Tsui in the Hollywood Reporter. “As it stands, Snowpiercer is still an intellectually and artistically superior vehicle to many of the end-of-days futuristic action thrillers out there. But while the references to real-life atrocities should certainly resonate with international audiences, the overt ways in which Bong hammers his points home actually make the film less powerful than the more layered political allegories of his previous films like Memories of Murder and The Host.”
Update, 8/6: Now that that The Weinstein Company has acquired international rights, Harvey wants 20 minutes cut before Snowpiercer sees “the light of day in North America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or the UK,” reports Pierce Conran in Twitch. “According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns ‘TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film “will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.”‘ Effectively, the notorious Hollywood executive believes the American mid-west is too stupid for Snowpiercer.” Conran argues that Bong’s film “doesn’t have a great deal of flab which could easily be cut out. However, it is a very dark film, which may explain why the demanded cuts are so significant. If they happen where I think they will, much of what makes this film so special will be lost.”
Update, 12/6: “Unfortunately, the whole thing is a sorry mess,” finds Oliver Farry. “The backstory remains as flat as it does on the page—comics can get away with short-hand like this, films need to flesh things out a bit more. The information that is divulged about the train’s history comes far too late in the film, by which time its possible dramatic impact is vitiated. It is also, for all the grisly scenes of axe murder, and talk of horrific living conditions, not a very disturbing film. Rarely do we get a real sense of menace.”
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