Not often do I get to enjoy a movie in the afternoon after I'm done with work; mostly because I'd have to pay for it and (thankfully) I hardly do that now thanks to Gavin Grades the Movies. Snowpiercer was one of those movies that I paid full price, bought some popcorn and met my friend Hank for an afternoon summer action flick. This wasn't screened for critics and when that happens it's usually because the studio doesn't think it's very good so they don't want early reviews bashing it so people stay away. I don't think that's the reason why Snowpiercer wasn't screened. My theory is that the studios that paid for it and the director who made give zero s**ts about what people think of it and you have to respect that...sorta.
Writer/Director Joon-ho Bong is an interesting guy. I like to compare him to the band Cake. The two transcend genres so much so that they've created their own brand that is impossible to put in a section of the store without being horribly misleading. The first movie that I, and mostly everyone else, saw from him was called The Host about seven years ago. It's a monster movie unlike anything else I've seen. I don't mean that in the sense that it's a great film, although everyone seemed to think so. It combined a family comedy, political satire, melodrama and a sci-fi monster movie. He moves through all these genres with complete disregard for what the audience feels. It did it again with the disturbing and trippy film Mother in 2009. But never has he done it more than with Snowpiercer.
In the future, global warming and our attempts to stop it have sent the planet into an unlivable deep freeze and the only people alive on the planet travel the world in a 60' train where each car is a different level of class among the survivors. If you're like me you're thinking that sounds cool but totally unrealistic. I'm not going to say that those thoughts go away; in fact, they get worse as more things happen in the film that don't make any sense. What's interesting though is that you just accept all those flaws in the logic of the plot and relentlessly power through the film much like the unstoppable titular train.
Chris Evans (Captain America, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) proves that he's more than just a handsome action figure and pulls off some impressive acting. He's the leader of a revolution to overtake the train and he's helped by Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help, Fruitville Station) and John Hurt (the Harry Potter films, Alien). Standing in their way is the amazing Tilda Swinton (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Burn After Reading) in one of her most bizarre and finely performed characters of her career. The cast is firing on all cylinders and fully commits to the wackiness and grim nature of everything about this film.
As much as the movie is just okay for me, there's something about it that I love. I think it's that Bong's vision is what you see on the screen in a completely uncompromised final product. The odds of that happening in Hollywood is virtually none and despite it not working at times, it's still impressive. This could have been made for hundreds of millions and become just another action flick about badasses doing badass things trying to take a train. It has moments like that but it's also surrounded by wonderful, weird, confusing and sick twists that shows what a foreign director, unphased by the Hollywood system, can pull off when left alone...for the good and the bad of it.