Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer ★★★★½

South Korean writer/director Bong Joon-Ho’s first English language film is an allegorical sci-fi action-adventure based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob. Despite a visibly sizeable budget plus an all-star cast featuring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt and Ed Harris, it failed to get a wide theatrical release across much of the Western world.

Blame a certain Mr. Harvey Weinstein for this (although, as we all now know, he has committed far worse transgressions). While his company Miramax was due to distribute it in the North American and British markets, Mr. Weinstein insisted on it being released in a truncated version. However, Bong stuck to his guns and, as a result, Miramax dropped it and he had to switch distributors. This meant that it only received a limited release in the United States but didn’t reach the UK (bar a slot at the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival, which I myself attended) until it finally showed up on Amazon Prime in November of 2018.

It’s a shame that this film hasn’t received a far wider audience than it did. While it’s something of a Frankenstein’s Monster in terms of tone, mixing Terry Gilliam-style surreal satire with ultra-violence in the mould of South Korean action-thrillers, Bong Joon Ho pulls it off through sheer force of imagination.

There are many wonderful small moments and touches here: the discovery of what the protein bars consumed by the train’s have-not passengers are made of, the aquarium that provides the more fortunate ones with sushi twice a year, the bloody axe fight briefly interrupted by a New Year’s Day celebration, and the sight of a perfectly-formed snowflake falling from a bullet hole in a train window during a shootout.

The film is marred (albeit very slightly) by a couple of lengthy monologues that interrupt the otherwise unrelenting pacing. Nonetheless, it’s definitely one that you should seek out on streaming services.

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