Had the pleasure of catching Joon-Ho Boon’s (The Host) Snowpiercer this weekend, and for any action, apocalypse or sci-fi fans out there, I’d recommend checking it out.
1. Tilda Swinton. Swinton plays Mason, a woman at the top of the caste system on the titular train. The train travels the world non-stop, because to stop is to freeze, and to freeze is death. In an overreaction to global warming, a chemical was released into the air which cause the entire planet’s temperature to drop quickly and significantly, making most of humanity extinct. Mason keeps the “tail” in line, the lowest group in the train’s caste system. She relishes her power, which allows her to lecture incessantly as well as mete out violent discipline. Swinton is always great, and she hits another one out of the ball park with Mason.
2. Claustrophobia. The train is such a great setting, forcing all action into compact spaces. The train allows no place to hide when things go wrong, and faces its own issues such as tracks covered by frozen avalanches. It is the salvation of everyone on it, as well as a curse and a prison. Allocation of resources is a key theme, and when you see how crammed in the folks in the tail are compared to the luxury of those who live closer to the engine, that righteous, 99 percenter rage will rise. All of this and more serve to make the train not just the setting, but one of its important characters.
3. Traveling into the heart of darkness. I thought a lot about both Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and the novel it was based on, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. This idea that, at the end of the line, there is a man with answers, who is the answer, who must pay for his sins, for everyone’s sins. The journey, the obsession, the dread of what such a powerful man might do to defend himself and his territory. How that all evolves into myth, making such a man seem almost god-like, immortal. Boon’s screenplay and direction, beyond a talkie third act, create a consistent pace that allows the journey and ensuing action to flow from the tail to the engine.
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself.