Snowpiercer Review: All Aboard For the Most Thrilling Ride of the Summer

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If you count the number of dystopian revolution movies that studios half-heartedly churn out every year, it’s easy to forget that, when done right, these stories are more than capable of leaving you breathless in your seat.

Snowpiercer is a masterpiece of science fiction. It’s proof that with a little creativity and a top-notch script, this tired genre can break through its barriers and become something else entirely. Korean director Bong Joon-ho adapts the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige for his first English-language film. It’s a rousing success.

The concept is fairly simple. We hatched an experiment to stop global warming that failed and turned the entire Earth into a frozen wasteland. To survive, humanity built a train that goes around the world to keep a very small portion of the human race alive. Once aboard, the remaining individuals formed a class system, the elites residing in the front and the poor sleeping on top of each other in the back.

We begin, smartly, with the revolution already planned. Curtis (Chris Evans) intends to lead the people of the slums through every car all the way to the engine, the seemingly divine force keeping the train moving.

As Curtis and his followers travel through the cars, cutting down anyone that stands in their way, the truth behind the train slowly comes into light. Things really pick up once they capture Minister Mason (one of Tilda Swinton’s most transformative and often funnier roles) and the band of revolutionaries moves to the front end of the car.

The sets are absolutely stunning, turning train cars into spas, greenhouses, and nightclubs while never letting you forget the true nature of their state of living. The “last train” concept is fully realized and used to its utmost potential.

But the film doesn’t just get by on the technical aspects. The plot fires on all cylinders, with characters you actually care about and a surprisingly unpredictable path. Evans gives the best performance of his career to date, proving that he is more than capable of being a leading man that isn’t a superhero. Octavia Spencer is in great form as well as a mother fighting alongside Curtis for her son’s life. I can appreciate any movie that turns Spencer into an action hero.

Most stunning of all is the construction of the third act. The rug is pulled out from us suddenly, and the direction of the story seems like it could go anywhere. But once what happens happens, it’s clear that was the only true ending.

In a few years, Snowpiercer will be used in the same sentence as Blade RunnerBrazil, and The Matrix. It is a highly inventive sci-fi epic that hits just about every emotional beat it intends to. It’s the best movie of the summer so far and an obvious contender for best of the year. Don’t let yourself be tricked into thinking this is a movie you know. Nothing about Snowpiercer is typical, but everything about it is entertaining and rewarding. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

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