Shrewsbury, Massachusetts- South Korea is one of the best sources of foreign film today. Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, and Memories of Murder are three of the most well known pieces from this country all helmed by visionary directors and actors (usually Kang-ho Song). With stylized violence and enthralling stories, these films became instant cult classics here in the US. Some of these directors have come across the Pacific to try their luck in the US market. The latest director, Joon-ho Bong has thrown his hat into the ring with Snowpiercer, which opens in certain theaters Friday.
In 2014, the world’s governments unleash an experiment to curb global warming that causes an ice age. With all life on Earth suddenly eradicated, the remaining survivors live on Snowpiercer, a massive locomotive that continuously travels around the world. 17 years later, a class system has erupted and the members of the tail section of the train plan a revolt. Led by the enigmatic Curtis, the lower-class tail people fight their way to the front.
Snowpiercer is an engaging piece of cinema, masterfully balancing socio-economic commentary with no-holds-barred action. Joon-ho Bong did remarkable work with his previous two films Memories of Murder and The Host (not the Stephanie Meyer stuff, the good Host) and here he brings his vision to a more widespread audience with remarkable success. The story twists and turns in ways that one would never expect and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
This is partly thanks to the talents of the cast who are among the best in the action genre. Chris Evans leads the pack as Curtis and keeps showing how good of an actor he is when he isn’t playing Captain America. Tilda Swinton has a much more complex role and she acts the hell out of it to make it entertaining. It’s also great to see American audiences introduced to Kang-ho Song, who plays an instrumental engineer in the proceedings. Song is huge over in South Korea and seeing him transferring over here is a wonderful thing to see.
The trouble when most foreign directors come over to Hollywood, they get two wrapped up in the system and their work suffers. Jee-Won Kim, whose work includes The Good, the Bad, and the Weird and I Saw the Devil, is astounding, but The Last Stand doesn’t really hit the same mark. The same goes for Jose Padilha whose Elite Squad series made him an ideal fit for the Robocop reboot, but his vision clashed with the studios. Thankfully in Snowpiercer, changing the language did not compromise Joon-ho Bong’s personal talent.
Snowpiercer is one of the best action films that has been released so far this year and great fun to watch. The plot is magnetic, the acting appealing, and the action enthralling. There are a couple of questionable things about the plot and set-up, but those can be forgiven with a film that is as well made as this. If you can find it, see it because Snowpiercer is a solid action yarn to keep you cool during the hot summer days.
Snowpiercer opens for a special engagement at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge Friday, July 4th. It also opens in other select theaters statewide. http://www.brattlefilm.org/2014/07/04/snowpiercer/#.U7S2ipiCgeF