Post-apocalyptic films are interesting for the many ways film makers visualize the end of the world and what happens next. Dystopian films are interesting, albeit often brutal, for the ways film makers tweeze out extreme human behaviour, usually in some flavour of oppression. Snowpiercer is both post-apocalyptic and dystopian. While I found the premise interesting, the film falters a little on execution, mostly in the screenplay.
The world is suffering from global warming and a scientist creates a cloud-seeding mechanism to bring down the temps. The result is less than optimal because Earth is plunged into a new ice age effectively killing off all life. All life except those people who boarded a train built by a businessman to circle the earth, withstanding extreme temperatures found at the poles. The film opens on board the train, 17 years after the Earth went into deep-freeze.
First, I get that scientists have had some negative PR lately with falsifying data then covering it up with poorly constructed spin. But, it seems there would have been some safeguards against annihilating all life. Next, why did this business man build a train to circle the earth? Is this really something that could be built? Did the people who conveniently boarded this train suspect there might be a problem with the cloud seeding? I get that you could create a self-sustaining food supply in a closed system but that would require power. What is the source of power that keeps this train running for 17 years? Are we supposed to swallow the notion that in 17 years no parts of the train needed to be replaced; not a wheel or track needed to be replaced? Certainly there is no industry left to make those. All of this seemed to be pre-determined but it was not addressed. In short, my disbelief was not suspended.
Back on the train a wealthy few violently oppress the poor majority. This doesn’t surprise. Later we learn there is a method to this madness, the poor serving a greater purpose and even their predictable rebellions are manipulations of the wealthy to that end.
That aside, cinematography is extremely well-done. The visuals of the futuristic, self-contained train-home are sharp; the poor living is what appears to be an overstuffed cargo bay, the others in a Ritz Carlton suite. Lavish and squalid interiors are occasionally juxtaposed with the pristine frozen landscape from a window bay.
Acting is good and Chris Evans does surprisingly well. We a get a good back story for his character in segments throughout. Heavy guilt from some poor choices made in his early days in the train’s poor section are his motivating force. He is redeemed by poetic, if not heroic actions as he leads a rebellion against the wealthy. With all the tight shots on Evans’ face it would have been easy for him to come off not-so-guilt-driven, not-so-angry, not-so-willing to sacrifice. But, he nails it.
I can’t recommend this film to sci-fi nor post-apocalypse fans simply because I think the plot isn’t well-constructed. However if you want to see Evans in something other than his typical Marvel comic role, Snowpiercer is a good vehicle for that.