Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013) is the rare comic book adaptation from last summer that breaks away from the superhero mold that viewers have grown accustomed to.
Premiering in 2013 with a wide-release in 2014, Snowpiercer, based on the 1982 French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, is a wholly original dystopian story that couldn’t be more relevant to today’s world in which issues of climate change and wealth inequity are increasingly apparent.
The film is set in the near future, in the aftermath of a failed attempt to combat the effects of global warming. The majority of humanity has been decimated due to this accident, with the only survivors being those trapped aboard a train that travels a track spanning the entire globe.
The catch is that the train cannot stop circling the earth, otherwise all those aboard will ultimately freeze to death since the earth’s temperature is so low that one will turn into a human popsicle within mere minutes of exposure. Also worth mentioning is that even if they wanted to, passengers aren’t permitted to leave the train as it is strictly controlled by the upper class.
At the tail end of the train reside the 99%, where they live in filthy, unhygienic conditions and are sustained on mysterious gelatinous protein blocks. The lower class are constantly under surveillance and are subject to routine checkups by the elite’s soldiers, in which children are taken away from their parents by force.
We quickly learn that rebelling against the soldiers involves dire consequences that leave the viewer feeling a bit squeamish and ultimately siding with the inhabitants of the back end of the locomotive.
The elite, on the other hand, unsurprisingly occupy the front cars of the train and live in luxury. Like any good dystopian narrative, clear class distinctions are made early on and it is obvious that what will unfold is a disruption of the so called ‘order’ that exists on the train.
The hero of the film, Curtis Everett (played by Captain America himself, Chris Evans) leads the charge against the corrupt elite as the lower class force their way to the front of the train.
Will they gain control of the train? If so, then what? Is there any hope for humanity to ever overcome its own demise?
The film presents a claustrophobia to us that is on the surface literal, but upon a deeper examination, suggests that we are setting ourselves up for catastrophe due to our destructive and irresponsible behaviours not only towards the environment, but also to our fellow humans.
Film critic A.O. Scott, compares Snowpiercer to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (which TFS screened back in the summer), and writes of the film: “At times, Snowpiercer recalls Terry Gilliam’s Brazil both in its steampunk decor and in its grimly satirical look at the workings of power and privilege in a totalitarian corporate future. Its lessons about human nature are thought-provoking, but perhaps not as memorable as its motley, eccentric display of humanity in extremis.”
The film features many familiar faces aside from Evans, including Tilda Swinton & John Hurt (Only Lovers Left Alive), Ed Harris (The Truman Show), and Song Kang-ho (The Host, 2006).
Please join us for a FREE screening of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer on Wednesday, March 18 at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre (140 Charlotte St.). The show begins at 8pm.