The first reviews have landed for Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian sci-fi entry “Snowpiercer,” starring a sprawling cast headed by Tilda Swinton, Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer. Variety calls the film “visually stunning and richly satisfying,” while Twitch writes that the film’s stars “delight and horrify [the viewer] in surprising ways.” More below.
We’ll add reviews as they continue to roll in. The film — which is set in a futuristic Ice Age where Earth’s survivors are imprisoned on a train going nowhere, with passengers segregated by class in different cars — is currently without a stateside release date. Check out the trailer here.
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”). A 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, Bong’s adaptation of French graphic novel “Le
Transperceneige” reps a pricey investment ($40 million) for majority producer
CJ Entertainment, but seems a downright bargain compared with the cost of
forging such pics on Hollywood turf.
Bong has assembled an eclectic cast and each of his actors
is well matched to their characters, yet many go beyond the traditional
confines of their roles, delighting and horrifying us in surprising ways. Chris
Evans, in between Captain America roles, plays the reluctant working class hero
to a tee, and shines in the film’s back half, when the script gifts him some
unexpectedly weighty moments.
Under her false teeth, wig and pasty makeup, Tilda Swinton
is uproarious as the train’s unhinged prime minister. Measured and full of
delightful ticks, her memorable Yorkshire madam steals every scene she’s in.
All the world’s a train, and all the men and women are
merely passengers — a twist on one of William Shakespeare’s most oft-recited
lines could serve well as a summation of director Bong Joon-ho’s latest film.
An adaptation of the cult French comic book series Le Transperceneige,
Snowpiercer is an epic yet nuanced, contemplative yet entertaining vehicle that
uses its titular locomotive as an allegory for human existence as we see it in
the here and now.
Boasting a stellar cast that will certainly help open doors
to the international market — with the presence of Chris Evans, Octavia
Spencer and Alison Pill to whip up the interest of U.S. filmgoers, and Tilda
Swinton and John Hurt to cement the film’s art house credentials — Snowpiercer
sees Bong maintaining his own artistic grip on the proceedings.
Audiences accustomed to Bong’s work may find it darker than
usual, but this is natural given the nature of the narrative as it focuses on
the inner workings of social class, but much like his previous films, it never
ceases to be enjoyable. Bong’s masterstroke at delivering both depth and
suspense, as evident in his films such as Memories Or Murder (2003) and Mother
(2009), is used to scintillating effect through a well written narrative that
exploits the limited space on a train that provides the perfect location for
Bong’s sci-fi adventure.
Bong has also assembled the perfect cast with talent
spreading across three continents reflecting the global nature of the film and
its narrative. Chris Evans is difficult to fault as the young leader, while
John Hurt is perfectly cast as the older mentor and spiritual leader. Jamie
Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner and Ed Harris, likewise, both deliver their
best in the confinements of the train, but it’s Tilda Swinton as the second in
command of the train with her thick but attractive Yorkshire accent who manages
to rise above this stellar cast through her energetic and eccentric