The end of 2014 is nearly here. We have just a few weeks before 2015 hits and I have to put together my favorite films of the past year. It’s unfortunately that Hollywood feels the need to have many of their biggest Oscar-bait films sit and play in New York and L.A. for weeks (even months) before they expand to cities like Austin. I won’t be able to review films like Inherent Vice or A Most Violent Year until January of February, so they won’t be able to get on my top ten list (I tried to get into a screening of Inherent Vice here in town tomorrow night, but it sold out immediately after being announced. So, it would seem like a pretty good time to find some films that have been released already this year and are out on home media outlets. One of those films, a movie I tried to see earlier in the summer but never got around to it, was Snowpiercer. It was a South Korean-produced sci-fi film that was in the English language, and stared some well known Hollywood names like Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, and many more. The film was critically lauded over the summer, even if there was a very public dispute over the films director Bong Joon-ho, and the American distributor/producer Harvey Weinstein over the final cut of the film. Joon-ho got his way with the final cut, but Weinstein decided that the film would be getting a more limited release over the summer. But people have responded and love the film, and the movie is currently streaming on Netflix. Here’s my review of Snowpiercer.
Snowpiercer takes place in a post-apocalyptic society where the whole world is covered in ice and snow. The remaining survivors of the apocalypse live and drift on a giant speed train that circles the globe. The train is comprised of two classes. One being the rich that are at the very front of the train, who enjoy food, water, etc. And then there’s the poor class, which is at the very end of the train. The leader of the lower class is Curtis, played by Evans, who after being on the train and living in those conditions for the past 17 years of his life, is tired of it, and decides to start an uprising of sorts on the train in order to restore balance and peace to a train that is far from it. The problem is that he has several armed guards that are controlled and run by Mason, played by a very stone cold Tilda Swinton.
This is Joon-ho’s first film he’s made in the English language, even though it was produced and made in South Korea. I’ve been reading about the film for a few years now because it was a big hit in Joon-ho’s native South Korea, but it took awhile for the film to be released in U.S. theaters due to the creative disagreements between Weinstein and Joon-ho. Weinstein argued that the film should be trimmed by 25 minutes, while Joon-ho argued the other way. Joon-ho got his way, but Weinstein made the film a very limited release in a few cities, along with a brief run on Demand. I’m really happy that Joon-ho got his way with the final cut of this film, because Snowpiercer is one of the most exciting and entertaining films that I’ve seen all year. The film never skips a beat during its two hour runs time (which feels like a breeze once you’re watching it. This may be the best action film that I’ve seen all year, in a year where we haven’t really gotten any good hard-R action films (the exception being The Raid 2).
Chris Evans gives one of the best performances of his career as the leader of the uprising, as he can channel both the inner bad ass that we’ve been use to seeing him as in the Avengers films, and we get to see Evans act and get very emotional in many of his scenes. Evans had kind of a rough start in Hollywood when he was cast in the god awful Fantastic Four films in the previous decade. But since he was cast as Captain America, and got more and more roles in the process, I’ve been very impressed with Evans as an actor, and he’s one of Hollywood’s best leading men. It’s just a shame that more roles like in Snowpiercer don’t come along that much for Evans. Tilda Swinton is also very good as one of the films antagonists. I think what helps heavily in the favor of Snowpiercer is that they do a great job of having you hate the villains in the film, which yes, is what any film should do. But you really hate these villains, because without spoiling anything, they do some pretty cruel things to our main characters in this film (the film is rated R for a reason, so expect a balls to the wall action film).
The film is beautifully shot and constructed. The sets and visual effects are quite beautiful, even if the film doesn’t have the multi-million dollar price tag of the Hollywood tentpoles that many of us are use to seeing. It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to see this film in the theaters, because from what I saw watching it on my television at home, this would’ve been a helluva theatre experience. It looks fantastic on Blu-Ray, which is where I watched the film on Netflix, and I’m considering going out to get the Blu-Ray for this film just because its so beautiful and jaw dropping at times to look at. It also doesn’t help that the film is very thrilling and exciting from beginning to end. The action is constantly in close quarters, and every action beat feels just as thrilling and dirty as the last.
If you have nothing to do during the holiday season except sit around and stare at your loved ones, I highly recommend that you open up your Netflix and watch Snowpiercer. It’s one of the best films of the year, and has a very good shot of being on my top ten, but I can’t guarantee anything. The movie is thrilling as being a little emotional (with a little more emphasis on the thrills), and the action sequences are very raw and gritty. It’s a shame that Hollywood can’t make action films like Snowpiercer. I don’t know if its not marketable enough or what, but Hollywood should really take a look at films like Snowpiercer and try to do something similar to this masterful foreign action film. Maybe Sony Pictures should try to make films like this, I mean what do they have to lose anyway?