Snowpiercer ★★★★½

Snowpiercer is dense, more so than I had anticipated, its plot initially fuelled by the heated emotions that run through the titular train’s lowest class culture, a desperation for a revolution, to finally end the suffering that has plagued them for 17 years. Its tail to head journey is led by the headstrong Curtis (Chris Evans), radiating leadership and intelligence, appointed by the people as their front in their trials towards the engine, which is manufactured and controlled by a man named Wilford (Ed Harris), a visionary who saw the end of our world in the horizon, constructing a train that is capable of self-sustainment and endurance from the harsh cold climate that exists beyond the train’s walls.

In its first hour, the tension is risen and its adrenaline palpable, we root for the underdog camp as they go up against the outnumbering members of security, ruthless in their profession and sneaky in their tactics; we feel the grit and sweat that masks and drips on the skin of its protagonist, their will to proceed and hope for a better outcome, blood will be shed and director Joon Ho Bong allows the fallen to feel sudden and unclimactic, all the more the sense of threat looms the atmosphere, allowing Curtis’ journey to be a more rewarding one for its patiently anticipating audience.

Its world is creative and highly original, its exposition brought upon sporadically in its first half, feeding our curiosity that never leaves a moment that feels underwhelming, it shifts from focused seriousness to surprising jabs at humour, one that is far less intrusive than anything that the filmmaker has ever delivered, but also not his most strikingly effective. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see the Joon Ho Bong at a more concentrated mindset, no doubt favouring the Hollywood construction, but unwilling to forego much of his own unique blueprints, as this is still a Bong film, one that still manages to convey wonderful creativity in the midst of compromise.

Many may feel let down by the film’s turn for the intellectual and ambiguous in the film’s latter half, lingering away from the action-orientated energy of the former, exploring its themes further, its characters more vulnerable, and its atmosphere more tamed. It is a test against a viewer’s patience, and for those who allow themselves to be tolerant would find the value in Curtis and Wilford’s exchange, realising the how much is in the balance, the potential trajectories that the film may lead all laid out for us as we observe in eager anticipation, we see Curtis’ character in a light that allows him to be greater validated than one had come to expect, and undoubtedly I was left satisfied, a traditional speech from the protagonist is avoided in the hopes for redemption, his actions simply speaking for themselves.

Snowpiercer is a grand achievement but arguably lesser than Bong’s intimate efforts previously in his career, it conforms to the structure of the Hollywood system, yet its auteur stamp remains intact and would please those unfamiliar of his work and those who are; what he has created is one worthy of praise, fascinating and dense in its thematic and aesthetic content that rarely does one feel bored of its presence. Snowpiercer left me genuinely surprised.

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