The year is 2031. Due to global warming, the Earth has completely frozen over. All life has become extinct. Wilford (Ed Harris), head of Wilford Industries, has built a weatherproof train and loaded the survivors of the freeze on it. The train is divided by class. First class up front. Then economy. Then the freeloaders in the tail of the train. Those at the tail of the train are forced to do the bidding of those at the front.
Just before the 18th anniversary of the train, Curtis (Chris Evans) and his friend, Edgar (Jamie Bell) are planning a revolution. Their goal is to take over control of the train’s engine. If they control the engine, they control the train. They can right the wrongs of those done to the people in the back of the train. With the guidance of Gilliam (John Hurt), an old man living in the back of the train, Curtis puts his plan in motion.
When Curtis’ band of revolutions meet up with the train’s security, led by Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton), the battle is bloody. But the group is determined in their mission to take the train, no matter the cost.
Snowpiercer is an obvious social commentary on the segmentation of classes, and the belief that everyone serves a purpose in society. The lower classes exist merely to support the needs of the train and the upper class. The upper class exists merely to enjoy the luxury of being first class. The “economy” class, well, they aren’t discussed at all. In fact, they’re not even shown as Curtis moves through the train. We see the tail end, the utilitarian cars (where food and water are maintained), and first class. That is it.
One could almost make a case that this movie is not like any others. Almost. The exact same story is told in The Matrix trilogy. Curtis represents Neo, obviously. The train represents Zion. Minister Mason and the train’s security represent the machines. The machines strive to maintain equilibrium within their system, much the way Mason and Wilford work to maintain balance on the train. The similarity between the two films is striking. I won’t go much beyond that, so as not to spoil anything in this movie.
As an action film, Snowpiercer fares pretty well. The battles are fierce and intense. The story twists and turns at times, not leaving you sure where it may be headed. At the same time, though, you know exactly what is going to happen. The CGI gets a little out of hand at times, trying to do too much. As the train speeds past frozen wastelands, it looks cartoonish.
For the first half of the film, I found myself wondering why Wilford had made the train. How it was built before/during the freeze. How everyone was loaded onto the train. About halfway through the movie, you find yourself in an education car. The teacher is about to show the kids a video on their beloved Wilford. This video conveniently explains the answers to all your questions. Nice touch on the back story, if an almost lazy way out. Without this well-timed plot device, however, the film would have gone well over its 2 hour run time.
I was enjoying the movie, overall until Act 3. The monologuing gets a little heavy and overly detailed. Sure, it is needed to give more depth to the story and more meaning to the final showdown. It just seemed a little much. Then there is the ending. I was shocked when the screen first went black, wondering if that was the disappointing end we were left with. Then we return to the aftermath. I almost wish they had rolled the credits rather than the last minute or so of the film.
Snowpiercer isn’t a bad film. It just isn’t a great film. The story is good, it just loses its way 3/4 of the way through. If you have 2 hours to kill, pick it up at the RedBox.