In the near future, humanity is in a bind. Thanks to increasingly traumatic weather conditions, scientists have been forced to devise a new way to help cool the planet: they fill the atmosphere with a new chemical compound. Unfortunately, the compound ends up launching the planet into an apocalyptic winter, destroying civilization, as we know it.
In the year 2031, the disaster’s remaining survivors live in a restrictive class system, with the wealthiest enjoying opulent wealth and the poorest pushed to destitute slums and forced to eat jello-like protein bars.
Oh, and they all live in a giant train, constantly circulating the globe in order to ward off the planet’s freezing weather.
This is the setting of “Snowpiercer,” one of 2013’s best films. And chanced are, you didn’t see it.
The movie is an adaption of Le Transperceneige, a French graphic novel by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. It was directed by Bong Joon-ho, a South Korean director most known for his films “Host” and “Mother”, which were similarly spectacular.
The movie follows Curtis (Chris Evans) a young man living in the train’s rear with the rest of the locomotive’s most unfortunate residents. Forced to subsist on little food and in cramped quarters, Curtis and his fellow train residents launch a revolution to take control of the train and level it’s corrupt class system. As he fights his way to the front of the train, we learn more about this new society’s makeup, and the tragic circumstances of its existence.
While most dystopian films these days feature young-faced actors duking it out in hyper-futuristic societies, “Snowpiercer” is a refreshingly vicious take on the post apocalyptic film. As if setting the entire story on a train wasn’t intriguing enough, Joon-Ho’s film is also unapologetically violent and real. Important characters die, harsh realities are revealed, and the film’s unerringly moves from one refreshingly strange set piece to another.
While many recent Hollywood endeavors to depict post-apocolyptic worlds have also been noticeably whitewashed, “Snowpiercer” features a wide and diverse cast of characters, drawing from a wide sweep of people of color and older actors. Plus, the film is free of any hackneyed or forced romances between its characters: it recognizes that there isn’t much time for stereotypical love triangles when people are trying to murder one another with fire axes.
The pacing is pristine, the actions scenes are unmatched, and the overall aesthetic is incredibly bizarre and wonderful. Yet, most folks in the States haven’t even seen the movie, and it certainly hasn’t been featured extensively in mainstream media despite being filmed almost entirely in English.
Thankfully, the movie has been a hit in South Korea, earning over $53.6 million in box offices. Due to this, it’s set to be released in the states this summer by Harvey Weinstein. Bizarrely, however, he wanted to cut 20 minutes out of the 126-minute film, most of which is character development, and replace it with voiceovers. This brought him into conflict with Joon-Ho, who demanded that the film remain untouched.
They eventually compromised, and the film will be entering American theatres June 27th. However, it will be appearing in limited release thanks to the compromise, so audiences will only have a short window to watch it.
Luckily for you, the film is available in a number of places online. If you’re not one for waiting, I highly recommend you watch the film before this summer. Like right now. As far as science fiction goes, it’s probably the best thing you’ll see all year.
Sheldon is a senior creative writing major. This is his first year writing for The Spectator. He was once bitten by a duck in Palm Springs.