After a prolonged ‘disagreement’ between director Bong Joon Ho and distributor Harvey Weinstein over the length and pacing of Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer the film was finally released in the States earlier this month and here in Australia this week. It wasn’t worth the wait. The film, which stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, John Hurt and Ed Harris has done well in Korea and France and has gotten strong reviews… and I’m perplexed as to why.
Snowpiercer is an adaptation of French graphic novel La Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. The Snowpiercer of the title is a massive train that travels around the world via a perpetual motion engine in a future frozen wasteland. The train is massive, divided into the spacious front and middle carriages in which the wealthy and privileged live in relative luxury while the lower classes are crammed into the back few carriages, living in squalor and fear for their lives. Led by Chris Evans, it’s the ‘Masses Against the Classes’ as the inhabitants from the back of the train fight their way to the front…
I had high expectations for Snowpiercer, the source material is good, and Bong Joon Ho’s previous films, The Host (2006) and Mother (2009) are exceptional examples of their relative genres. Snowpiercer starts well; is beautifully shot, it looks incredible and continues to look incredible throughout. The performances are all fine, the cast is very strong for a genre flick, Tilda Swinton is always great and I like John Hurt and Jamie Bell. It has some fantastically graphic violence and some oddly dark humour. All aspects that would generally make for an enjoyable genre flick, but for some reason it just didn’t work for me.
I think one of its main problems is it’s not sure what it wants to be. It made no sense, you can get away with stereotypical dialogue and nonsensical set-ups and reveals in graphic novels as you are generally more forgiving with the format. Transferred to film we expect more, and visuals aside Snowpiercer doesn’t provide anything else. I’m sure that fans of the film will point to its world society in microcosm, a dark satire and declare it a ‘thoughtful’ piece of work, and ‘damning world view of the future’ or some random rubbish.
Without spoiling it, I really hated the ending. When Evans finally gets to the front of the train, not a spoiler, the ‘mythical designer/operator’ reveal just made no sense and descends into nonsense rapidly. If anyone is really shocked or amazed at the ending they probably haven’t seen many good films. It’s inspired and sloppy, stylish and dumb.
To my mind, Harvey Weinstein was probably right this time around… he should have been allowed to cut it.