Set at the end of the year 2021, Snowpiercer tells the story of the planet’s last remaining survivors. All human life now exists on one train, a train organised into rank and social position. Those at the tail-end live in poverty. Those at the front live in luxury, worshipping the sacred engine as well as their mysterious leader, Wilford. Since the year 2014 the world has been frozen, following a global warming experiment that left the outside world impenetrable. The underdogs are ready to rebel. Unwillingly led by Curtis, and his loyal friend Edgar, we follow the bottom class as they attempt to journey up the train to overthrow Wilford and his vicious supporters. Ahead of them is death, violence and some huge surprises. Snowpiercer moves as aggressively as the train on which the character’s travel; at a heart-pounding pace. Chris Evans, best known for being Captain America in the latest Marvel film series, brings his Hollywood passion to this South Korean treasure that mixes comedy, action and suspense to make for very unique and refreshing viewing. Snowpiercer reminded me of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil with its wit and passion, placed within a well-constructed and creative dystopia. The cast is exceptional, brimming with talents from a variety of countries and types of cinema. Snowpiercer and its diversity of genre, cast and themes, makes it stand out from the crowd at Edinburgh International Film Festival.
John Hurt, whose filmography I have previously analysed and discussed here, is always a pleasant and familiar face to see on the big screen. He gives a typically sharp and detailed performance as the elderly king of the impoverished. Octavia Spencer, who I find to be slightly one-track minded in her performances, gives a reasonable good performance as both a brave soldier and devoted mother. Jamie Bell is energetic and bold, contributing to the film’s fiery heart and constant energy. It is Tilda Swinton who steals the show as an equally terrifying and comical devotee to Wilford. She is a snake in the grass with a thick Yorkshire accent that is unsettling and therefore highly amusing. Swinton’s character is slimy and malicious, like a lost character from The League of Gentlemen with her humour and absurdity. Swinton is almost unrecognisable, as she is in so many roles. One of Britain’s greatest talents, she takes Snowpiercer to new levels of brilliance, applying an English wit to the action and violence of Asian cinema. This is without a doubt one of EIFF most inspired choices this year. The soundtrack, script, direction and story all live up to the standard set by the uncompromising performances. Snowpiercer is weird and wonderful; twisted and imaginative.
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