Bong Joon-ho’s epic sci-fi Snowpiercer


I was lucky enough to attend a special advance screening of Bong Joon-ho’s most anticipated sci-fi “Snowpiercer” last week, 30th Jan at SM Megamall Cinema 6 with the E-team. Ate Jube who I work with at the editorial department knows someone from the organizer, so we didn’t need to have tickets.

It’s based on a French graphic novel, “Le Transperceneige ” by Jean-Marc Rochette,  Bong Joon-ho saw it at a comic book shop in Hongdae. He then showed it to fellow acclaimed director and friend Park Chan-wook and got him the screen rights for the film. 

I first heard about the movie last August in an article with Bong Joon-ho mentioning one of my ultimate Korean ‘bias’ Kang Dong-won. He said if he had a choice, he would pick Kang Dong-won to be Curtis (Chris Evans’ role). That’s when I first got interested because he seems to like my lovely Dong-won. But anyway, I’m not super familiar with Bong Joon-ho to be honest. I just know he’s one of the most respected veteran directors in Korean cinema. I’ve heard of his other films like “Mother” especially because Won Bin is in the movie and “Memories of Murder” as it was likened to “Voice of a Murderer” that Kang Dong-won starred in. And oh, this is Bong Joon-ho’s first English-language film.

I never really liked post-apocalyptic movies because they don’t have stories at all, nor of any value. The director got me highly interested in it. I just know that the remaining human survivors are living in a train called Snowpiercer that travels the world. It was actually good that I didn’t know much about it before seeing it. That way, I didn’t know what to expect. Turns out, the world is enveloped in a new ice age due to a failed experiment to stop global warming. But the twist is, there are societal divisions inside the train. The elite and rich ones are comfortably living at the front end of the train and the poor at the tail end in worst conditions and treatment.

It is told that there was a group from the tail end who onced tried to get out of the train –  the “Revolt of Seven.” Every time the train passes by Yekaterina bridge, people in the train see this sort of ice mirage of the members of “Revolt of Seven.” It is also an indication that a year has passed. During this moment in the film, Namgoong Minsu – gate opener (portrayed by the favorite Song Kang-ho and usual collaborator to Bong Joon-ho) sees a crashed plane submerged in ice but notices that he sees the tail end of the plane now than before. He concludes that this is a sign that the snow is melting and that they could finally try to come out of the train.

Now the revolution is focused on seizing control of the engine, as they think by doing so they can make the rich compromise. Curtis who leads the revolution is not the usual hero. He’s unsure of himself if he can really lead the group out of their dire situation. But Gilliam (John Hurt) gives him support that this is the right time to do it and that he’s the right person to lead them. Along with his second in command Edgar (Jamie Bell), they dared to test if the guards’ guns really have bullets. They believe that bullets have long been non-existent since they started living in the train, which turned out to be true. And in this revolution, they face Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) and have to get through all the gates, without any idea what they’re about to face before reaching the engine room.

What I like best about the film is the intensity and the element of unforeseen events. You don’t know what to expect, it surprises you at every moment. Everytime Minsu opens a gate, I feel electrified and jumpy as to what I’m going to see, just like I’m in the movie with the characters. It totally amazed me when I saw this aquarium where the rich people store various kinds of fish and other food. It’s like Oceanpark inside a train. Then there’s this greenhouse, a sushi restaurant, a butcher’s place, a school for kids, a club, a pool, a spa house, dental and medical clinics. Wow, what a vision – Wilford’s vision. Well the train is actually an innovative idea of Wilford long before the experimental accident happened.

I can say no more about the perfect casting and wonderful performances from everyone. It just saddened me to see Edgar, Gilliam and Grey (Luke Pasqualino) getting killed protecting Curtis for this cause. Curtis along with Minsu and daughter Yona managed to reach the engine, finally meeting Wilford. He finds out that Gilliam and Wilford wanted Curtis to lead everyone in the train.

It ends in a cliffhanger leaving me with thoughts as to what actually happened to Curtis and Minsu and everyone else when the train crashed. Only Yona and Tanya’s son came out of the rubble. It leaves the audiences to make their creative imaginations work and continue the story.

But if there’s one huge lesson to me, it is about the worst nature of humanity. Even in utmost dire conditions, the rich still value their status more than anything else. Oppressing the poor to maintain such high stature, when in fact everyone of them are just lucky humans who survived. You began to ask yourself, are these the kind of people worthy of being given a chance to survive?


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