On a recent episode of Screen Junkies’ Movie Fights, guest Mike Carlson picked “Snowpiercer” as the film of 2014 that should have been nominated for an Oscar. After seeing and passing over it many times on Netflix, Mike’s arguments for this film pushed me over the edge. And I am so glad he did.
I was blown away by this film! In our modern world of dystopian Y.A. fiction fodder it is unique to see a multi-layered story as this one. So, a quick synopsis: in response to global warming, the world governments disperse a chemical into the atmosphere to strengthen the ozone (yeah, that screams disaster). It works too well and instead sends the world into a new ice age killing off all life on Earth. The only survivors board a train whose original purpose was a luxury liner which travels the globe. There of course is hierarchy on the train (first class, coach, etc.) which overtime turns into a bitter caste system. This exposition is quickly taken care of in the credit sequence so we can jump in with no waste into the story: the rebellion of the “tail end” people to overthrowing the engine.
Now this all may sound like a story you’ve heard before but “Snowpiercer” is so brilliantly executed you’ll think the dystopian concept couldn’t be told any other way. It also is as diverse as the train which it’s set. Based on a French graphic novel, written, directed and produced by a Korean crew and prominently starring British and American actors. The best way to describe this movie is that it is Asian cinema with English-speaking actors. The pacing, humor and (sometimes) melodrama of scenes are what I have seen with other Asian films. And the twists are numerous and shocking – leaving the viewer unsure from the beginning where it is going.
Story aside, the strongest attribute about “Snowpiercer” is the cast. All are great: John Hurt (Hellboy, V for Vendetta), Kang ho-Song (The Host), Jamie Bell (Jumper, new Fantastic Four franchise), Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Chris Evans who sets himself far apart from his Captain America role as the rebel leader Curtis.
By far though, the best performance is Tilda Swinton. Many times you have to remind yourself that the character on screen is Swinton and not just because of the thick glasses, fake teeth and heavy accent. The part was rumored to be originally written for John C. Reilly, but negotiations fell through leaving a very masculine part to be played by a female. All in all, the biggest upset of the Oscar season was that Tilda Swinton was not nominated for Supporting Actress.
As I write this, I am currently snowed in (ironic I know). So please take the time this cold weekend to watch this quintessential ‘snowed-in’ movie. You’ll be glad I gave you that push.