1. What is it About?
In the near-future, a eco-engineering ploy to reduce global warming ended up freezing the planet and killing almost everyone. All that’s left are the passengers on one giant train, traveling a never-ending loop around the world once a year. After 18 years, society has devolved into a rigid class system (literally – it’s all based on which class of ticket you originally bought for the ride), and the folks at the back of the train are fed up. Do I smell revolution?
2. Who’s in it?
Quite a few good folks, actually. Let’s start with Chris Evans (Captain America) as the rebel leader dealing with some very dark demons surrounding the start of their journey. John Hurt (Harry Potter, and pretty much everything else that needs a great English actor to lend gravitas), as the old man in the back dispensing wisdom. Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) as the rather mad President of the train society. Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) as the young man who idolizes Evan’s character.
3. How is Chris “I only play superheroes” Evans in this?
He’s pretty good. This is some of the darkest material we’ve ever seen him tackle, and he brings a grim determination to everything his character does, including making some wrenching choices. He has a pretty big and dramatic piece towards the end that he pulls off visually, but his voice doesn’t quite hit all the notes you might hope for. I’d say he has room to grow as an actor, but he fits the role, and by doing movies like this, he’s sure to just get better.
4. Will my kids like it?
Well, possibly. First important thing to consider is that this film is a solid R for violence, language, and some subject matter. So this is only for older kids who can handle it. With that in mind, my 16 year-old son loved it. He said he felt about Snowpiercer the same way he did about The Grand Budapest Hotel, that he’d just seen an excellent film, with a great story, acting, and a distinctive design and feel. He’s a deep kid.
5. Will I like it?
I think so, but that depends upon you. This is a dark film, with very little happiness, and no easy answers. But this *is* a great example of setting up your mad concept and running through it with gusto. My feeling coming out was that I’d seen a classic post-apocalypse film on the order of Mad Max (with some Brazil thrown in). It’s unflinching, it pulls no punches, and it doesn’t create a lot of hope. But it tells a powerful story, and never cops out on what it is. For me, that makes it a great film.
6. Is it geeky?
Well, if “post-apocalyptic world-traveling super-train” doesn’t qualify as geeky, I don’t know what does.
7. Does it pass the Bechdel Test?
Not really, no. There are some very strong female characters, but they’re either crazy, or just trying to save their kids in a horribly desperate situation. None of them really have time to chat.
8. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?
There are probably a couple spots where a break won’t ruin the plot. During the ultra-violence, when they all stop to celebrate the New Year. Also, when they take a sushi break. Yeah, there’s a post-apocalyptic sushi break.
9. Why am I seeing this pop up in iTunes when it’s still in the theaters?
It’s a weird thing. The short story (Here’s the long story if you’re interested.) is that, due to the US distributor balking at the dark tone, and the director (Korean sensation Bong Joon-ho) refusing to change it, its US release was delayed. It was released intact internationally, and garnered serious acclaim. The distributor relented, but only released it via a subsidiary on about 600 screens. The weird twist is that this subsidiary also likes to do creative releases, and so it’s available on Video on Demand all over as well. So, you have a choice to see it in a theater (preferable for the big spectacle), or to see it at home.
10. Is there anything after the credits?
Nope. No Shawarma for Chris Evans this time.