As of late, dystopian movies have been driven by snotty teens. You have your Hunger Games (which I love) and your Divergents (to which I roll my eyes), and it all seems rather youthful. Young adult fiction has reigned supreme for quite some time now, and it led to a flooding of these stories at the movies. Snowpiercer, on the other hand, feels quite adult. It's grim and violent. I'm not sure if the odds are in anyone's favor on this train.
An attempt to end global warming results in another ice age (man, we suck), and it's not going to be all cuddly with mammoths voiced by Ray Romano. Almost all humanity is lost, but the remaining inhabits board the Snowpiercer, a huge train that travels in a huge, world-spanning track. It is now 2031, and some of the people in the back of the train are pretty darn sick of the hierarchy on this not-so-express ride. Chris Evans (all gruff and dirty in all the right ways) plays Curtis, a reluctant hero in the making who lives in the back of the train.
Curtis' mentor is Gilliam (John Hurt), an old, one-legged man who helps Curtis hatch a plan to take over the train. If they take over the front of Snowpiercer, they can rule their fate. Living in the tail end isn't very pleasant. They are beaten by the guards of the front end, forced to live in tight, dirty quarters, and they are only fed gelatinous protein slabs that are made of...well...you don't want to know. In order to take the front, however, they must fight their way, and it is bloody.
They awaken Namgoong Minsu, a prisoner who built the doors between the cars. They pay him and his daughter, Yona, in Kronol, a drug that they are both addicted to every time he opens a barrier. The people from the tail end also take a hostage in Mason (Tilda Swinton), the liaison to Wilford, the builder and conductor of the Snowpiercer. Swinton, dressed in Jackie O.'s rejected wardrobe and fitted with false teeth, reminds us that everything is better with her in it.
Snowpiercer is grim, and it doesn't hold back. The fighting in the different cars ("Approximately 74% of you will die...") makes you realize that you should start appreciating your favorite characters before it's too late. I never thought I would say this, but Chris Evans acts his toned, muscled fanny off. He's better than he's ever been before. He delivers a monologue near the end that is both chilling and devastating--trust me, you'll know what I'm talking about.
The production design is still on my brain after seeing it last week. The tail end is grimy and cramped, and the idea that they are inside totally melts away. As they pass through the rest of the train, we get to see how drastically different everything is. This must have been an art director's dream, because every car has a different aesthetic. As Curtis and the rest walk through the Snowpiercer, they encounter individualized steam rooms, a swimming pool, and a chillingly cheery classroom where Alison Pill plays a packing schoolteacher.
Snowpiercer is definitely a welcome change to the dystopian movies we've been given in the last year. If you want to see a potentially bleak future without getting caught up in a lame love triangle, check it out. It makes Divergent look like a bad episode of Global Guts.