Snowpiercer (2013)
By: Rip on January 15, 2015 | Comments
Roadshow | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 121 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt
Screenplay: Bong Joon Ho, Kelly Masterson
Country: South Korea
It is a little sad that the average film fan isn't talking more about South Korean director Bong Joon-ho's latest effort, Snowpiercer, a hugely entertaining slice of genre filmmaking that is unlike anything you've seen before. Based on the French graphic novel, 'Le Transperceneige' by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, the film was picked up by The Weinstein Company and disappointingly given a limited theatrical run in most countries. But this is a title that is sure to reach cult status in no time and one that every genre film fan should be placing at the top of their 'must-see' list.

When an experiment to reverse global warming results in the accidental cooling of the earth and produces a new ice age, the few remaining inhabitants on Earth find themselves aboard the Snowpiercer. A luxury train that circles the planet on a loop and runs on a perpetual-motion engine, the Snowpiercer has become mankind's last hope for survival. It is 2031, and after seven years aboard the train, the class system which divides the rich (at the front sections of the train) and the poor (at the back end of the train) begins to reach its breaking point. Living in cramped overcrowded quarters and fed their daily rations of protein bars, life at the tail of the train has been hell. Unwilling to endure this lifestyle any longer, Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a rebellion against the authority figures, such as Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton), in an attempt to make it to the front of the train. Hoping to get answers from Wilfred (Ed Harris), the seemingly omnipotent creator of the train, Curtis and his followers, including Edgar (Jamie Bell), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), Namgoong (Song Kang-ho), Gilliam (John Hurt) and Yona (Go Ah-sung), quickly learn that achieving their goal will be much harder than anticipated.

Director and co-writer Bong Joon-ho is probably best known in the West as the man behind Korean monster movie The Host (2006) (and lesser known, but excellent titles like Mother (2009) and Memories Of Murder (2003)), and here he collaborates with a mostly English speaking, but very international cast and crew in a film shot primarily in the Czech Republic. This is a movie that is a blend of genres, with an end result that is as gonzo as it is topical. Snowpiercer is a post-apocalyptic adrenaline rush that will leave you buzzed well after the end credits have rolled. Masterfully edited by Steve M. Choe and shot by Hong Kyong-pyo (who lensed the magnificent Brotherhood Of War (2004), no less), with yet another superbly atmospheric score by Marco Beltrami, the film is co-written by Kelly Masterson, who made an impressive debut with a project that couldn't have been any more different to Snowpiercer, Sidney Lumet's brilliant final film, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007). Performances are also top-notch right across the board, with Chris Evans again proving his growing versatility as an actor with great range (his monologue in one sequence that reveals a very dark side to his character is particularly moving), but it is an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton who steals the show as the Margaret Thatcher-like Mason, a monstrous creation, as despicable as she is funny. Which leads me to say that as loud as the social commentary is in Snowpiercer, director Bong Joon-ho's trademark humour is still intact. And whenever it comes, it's a welcome relief to the intensity of this unique motion picture.

I could go on and on about Snowpiercer, but it's best you see it for yourselves. If you love science fiction or genre films in general, this one's for you. Personally, I intend to revisit it very soon.
The Disc
Whilst Snowpiercer demands to be seen on Blu-ray, Roadshow's SD DVD is a very good one. The 1:78:1 framed picture is as sharp as a tack, with great detail and clarity. The print is clean and colours are good, which intentionally range from the monochrome to the brighter end of the spectrum as the characters move through the train. Many scenes are shadowy, especially those set to the rear of the train and the blacks come off well. There are descriptive subtitles for the hearing impaired, as well as automatically generated English subtitles during moments when Korean dialogue is used.

Audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and it rocks the house. Surrounds are very active and the subwoofer gets a nice workout, especially during sequences involving the train hurtling through the snow, gunshots, explosions, etc…

In terms of special features, as is usually the case the SD-DVD gets quite a few less than its Blu-ray counterpart. Aside from the standard Roadshow trailers (those being The Expendables 3, These Final Hours and Into The Storm), we get an audio commentary from film critic Scott Weinberg, who is later joined by five other reviewers. Though these gents had nothing to do with the making of Snowpiercer, the commentary is very informative and interesting, covering topics that range from the film's themes and origins, to casting, to influences and marketing. Better than expected. Plus, a four and a half minute interview with Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton, along with an 'extended animated clip' detailing how the new ice age and Snowpiercer train came to be. Look to the Blu-ray and other editions around the globe if you're after more.
The Verdict
An environmental themed action thriller, Snowpiercer is quite brilliant and a truly dazzling breath of fresh air to the cinema world. Simultaneously thought provoking, thrilling and funny, it gets my highest recommendation.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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