|The Frankfurt-Tipp rating:|
|Genre:||Sci-Fi, Thriller, Action|
|Production country:||Südkorea/USA/Frankreich 2013|
|Running time:||Approx. 126 min.|
In a not-too-distant future, life on our Earth is barely possible. Snow and ice cover the entire planet. With the freezing temperatures, anyone who spends even a few seconds outdoors will die. The only place where life still exists is on a huge train that races ceaselessly around the globe. Inside, the social structures are clearly distributed. While the masses in the back of the train are crammed together in perpetual darkness, the few wealthy survivors in the front cars enjoy debauched luxury and decadence. But while the downtrodden simply surrendered to their fate in the early years, signs now point to change. Under the leadership of the wise Gilliam (John Hurt), Curtis (Chris Evans) and Edgar (Jamie Bell) want to instigate a revolution that will finally give everyone a fair life on the train. But would that also ensure long-term survival?
With his first international production Snowpiercer, Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho (The Host) delivers a particularly bleak, yet extremely original, vision of the end times. While there may be some set pieces that will seem familiar to connoisseurs of the apocalyptic sci-fi thriller genre, there are many moments and images that at least give the impression that you haven't seen them like this before. The film is based on Jean-Marc Rochette's graphic novel Snowcruiser, but apart from the initial situation it deviates dramaturgically from the original. Especially towards the end, Bong Joon-ho's version goes its own way, which makes the film exciting and surprising even for those viewers who are familiar with the graphic novel.
Snowpiercer is a very dark, sometimes very brutal film, but it also has another side, which could well be called a social satire. And therein lies the film's only real problem. For the character portrayed by Tilda Swinton, who is quasi-representative of this aspect of the story, is an overly exaggerated caricature. And this sometimes feels like a disturbing foreign body in the midst of the action, which is dominated by suffering, despair and bloody revolution. Here, Bong Joon-Ho should have shown a bit more subtlety to achieve the effect he does in other parts of the film. A good example of this is a scene in the front of the train that shows a teacher (Alison Pill) drumming their leader's propaganda into the children of the wealthy train passengers. This sequence - and especially its outcome - is also over-the-top, but only in such a way that it still works as blackly humorous satire and just doesn't degenerate into over-the-top caricature like Swinton's character.
This, however, is only a very minor pothole in an otherwise superb, disturbingly fascinating journey through a snowy apocalypse. Very well cast with John Hurt, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell and a surprisingly edgy Chris Captain America Evans, Snowpiercer offers the perfect melange of superbly choreographed action, fascinating imagery, biting humour and a multi-layered story with some very surprising and clever set pieces. Even if not all visual effects are perfect and dramaturgically there are a few minor lengths in the course of the two-hour running time, it is this very special mixture that almost completely buries these small weaknesses. Because in the end, the joy of having finally seen another film that entertains without insulting the intellect, and that is willing to put its courage of its own ideas above pandering to mass tastes, prevails.
Thus, if you're expecting straightforward glossy sci-fi action, you're unlikely to want to follow this dystopian train ride to the end of the line. But if you appreciate gritty entertainment cinema that moves beyond the overly worn-out tracks, and want to see something other than the usual Hollywood apocalypse, then you should definitely pick up a ticket for Snowpiercer. Absolutely worth seeing
An article by Frankfurt-Tipp