Snowpiercer Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton. Directed by Bong Joon-ho. Rated R. Now playing.
Korean director Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother) spent months fighting with the U.S. distributor of his first English-language film, Snowpiercer, to get the full, uncut film shown in this country, and although he had to compromise by accepting a more limited release, his weird, haunting vision remains intact. Snowpiercer is a sci-fi action movie based on a comic book and starring Marvel favorite Chris Evans, but it’s far from a typical summer blockbuster, and smoothing out its rough edges would have done a disservice to Bong’s off-kilter storytelling.
In broad strokes, Snowpiercer is a familiar dystopian story, with its post-apocalyptic setting and battle between poor revolutionaries and their wealthy overlords. It takes place in 2031, when the entire planet has frozen over thanks to a backfired solution to global warming, and the only humans left alive inhabit a giant train that is perpetually circling the globe. Evans plays a freedom fighter from the slum-like tail section, who makes his way through security forces and the decadent playgrounds of the rich in order to get to the front of the train and confront the man who rules it.
The political message of Snowpiercer is delivered without much finesse, but Bong succeeds in other ways, creating a wonderfully immersive world on the train that evolves as Evans moves from car to car, and populating it with distinctive characters, like Tilda Swinton’s craven bureaucrat and Alison Pill’s homicidally chipper teacher. It may be a somewhat ramshackle, idiosyncratic vision, but that’s exactly what makes Snowpiercer worth watching.