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Movie Review | Snowpiercer

Edgar (Jamie Bell) and Curtis (Chris Evans) lead the revolution from the front in Snowpiercer

Movie summary: In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges. (IMDb)

As far as I can remember, Snowpiercer had a very limited release in the UK - possibly even just the single weekend at select cinemas. I'm sure I saw that it was screening at the same time as another movie I'd already booked to see and it wasn't anywhere in sight the following weekend. So I thought I'd wait until the digital/disc release and watch it then.

Unfortunately, that took literally years to happen and I don't know why, although I'm not too sure many people were pushing too hard for a Weinstein Company movie to get more attention. Which was a shame, as it meant either committing piracy or hoping for it to eventually get released in the UK. Opting for the latter, I finally got to see the damn thing this film and loved 90% of it.

I'll get onto that 10% that didn't work later, but it is incredible just how relevant Snowpiercer is today - it's literally a story of a beat-down underclass struggling to survive in an extremely hostile environment after climate change has devastated the planet, while the privileged few - who are almost entirely white people - continue to live in relative luxury.

This movie is about that underclass rising up in protest at their treatment to try and take control of the train that the last of humanity is living on to try and improve their lot in any way possible. It's not particularly pleasant and, at times, is very violent and bloody, but there's no mistaking who are the 'heroes' and 'villains' here.

Chris Evans plays the main character of Curtis, who embodies that not quite perfect good/evil divide - with some late revelations showing that he really isn't as much of a heroic figure as he appears for the majority of Snowpiercer. And I'll admit it's fun to see Evans play a more morally grey character after seeing him as Steve Rogers for so many years.

However, even that isn't as much fun as trying to make sense of where the story is heading thanks to so many main characters - or what feel like main characters, at least - getting killed off at a steady rate. There are some well-known names and faces here that do not last the journey and each time one of them dies is a genuine surprise.

It's down to some pretty excellent direction from Joon-ho Bong and the screenplay by him and Kelly Masterson that it never becomes predictable either. Then again, the pair of them make sure that the movie never lets up - much like the titular train - steaming ahead as a reminder that life goes on despite what initially appear to be major setbacks.

These moments that leave you trying to make sense of where Snowpiercer is heading serve to make the events we witness feel more epic than they really should considering the cramped locations. By the ninety minute mark, I felt like I'd already been through a two hour movie - and I don't mean that as a criticism.

Gilliam (John Hurt) and Curtis (Chris Evans) plot the overthrow of their oppressors in Snowpiercer

Much like Mad Max: Fury Road, this is a highly-kinetic movie that just keeps going, leaving the audience almost as breathless as the characters. It works because we discover and/or experience things for the first time along with them, leaving practically no foreshadowing about how it was all going to end and making the entire experience feel fresh and exciting.

Apart from the ending. It's not bad, but it is slow and over-long. Or maybe it only feels like the latter thanks to the former. For a fast-paced movie that leaves you feeling like you've seen more than you really have, it's akin to the brakes being slammed on so we can be given an explanation for everything and Snowpiercer does suffer a little for it.

I don't want to go into too much detail about the ending to avoid spoiling it for any others who haven't seen the movie yet, but the last half an hour almost feels like it was transplanted from another movie. It's slower, more contemplative and philosophical - a far cry from the adrenaline fuelled action and emotion of the previous ninety minutes.

Like I said, it's not bad by any means, it just feels a little out of place. I suppose you could say that's the point of this part of Snowpiercer, but that is more of an excuse than a justification. I think there are some points raised here that could have potentially been hinted at earlier rather than have such an exposition dump saved for the finale.

Then again, the slow nature of the last part of the movie and some spotty CGI are the only real issues I have with Snowpiercer, the latter being thanks to a relatively low-budget film needing to show a post-apocalyptic world and not quite having enough money for the VFX team to do the outside world justice - but, just to repeat, that's only a minor, mildly-distracting quibble rather than a serious issue.

Despite these problems, I loved Snowpiercer and would happily watch it again if I have the time to do so at some point in the future. Outside-world CGI aside, it looks fantastic; the performances are pretty much spot-on and the first three-quarters of the movie are absolutely top tier for me. I thoroughly recommend this movie to anyone wanting a great movie to watch.

Snowpiercer is a fantastic film, only stopped from all-time classic status for me thanks to an ending that goes on just a little too long and some poor CGI. The story absolutely flies along, and you'll end up wondering just where it's all leading when characters are killed off with surprising regularity - and the climate change background feels extremely relevant today.


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