When the fringe of any genre is tampered with via adaption, the catastrophes far outweigh the successes! So, when I was introduced to those whispers about how the already mighty Joon-ho Bong was tasked with bringing to life an insane dystopian nut job like ‘Snowpiercer,’ I cringed in gape-mouthed incredulity and suppressed glee. When the rumors of trouble with the original story and that douchebag Weinstein emerged, crestfallen hardly covers it.
Yet, I sought out one of the few venues near me to show my love for the director and the story premise, and to cheer on this little train of Joon’s if I could. When we sat down it was like two intrigued adversaries. Right from the start, stark is but just a thin coat of paint over the rotten that resides beneath. During the 17 years that the perpetual motion train has been circumventing the world after the criminal and ironic global warming “solution” brought on the next great ice age, the remaining humans have splintered into a class system that the Snowpiercer’s builder facilitated once the train was rolling. It doesn’t take long for that to be apparent once Tidla Swinton shows up as a strange sort of train liason.
We see how gruesome the existence at the back of the train is through the eyes of Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Jamie Bell in all around stellar performances. But it is the haunted grimly determined brilliant turn by Chris Evans as Curtis that is the hope of ‘something’ – though we know not what – that is the glue that holds these people and this film together. As the ever-patient Curtis makes his move to march forward to the front of the train, is when the film really gets rolling. (That’s right, pun here inserted.) Then comes Joon’s masterful treatment of the brutality and strategic repartee between the two determined groups and how they heap violence upon violence in the close dance of death that would naturally occur in the constraints of a train car.
As Kang-ho Song playing security designer Namgoong Minsoo keeps opening doors for toxic waste drug lumps the nature of the train is exposed as the bank rolled playground of the rich entitled that is soooo very alive and well today and sets in steel the cautionary tale tag dangling from this film. Then like a subtle touch of déjà vu, I realize that we are the same as we always are and no matter how dire the circumstance, no matter how bad it gets, we cant escape our nature.
When the defining moment of the film arrives in a quiet moment between Curtis and Namgoong, we see whats been lost, whats been regained and though muddied by some confusing imagery at the end, the message of what we will never have again is made clear. As the final scene plays out and my face alights in awe at the revelation of what will not be, I marvel at the fact that I am okay with it and in an almost poignant salute I think ‘good luck to whatever comes next!’
Joon you have created one of the finest dystopian tales ever to grace the screen and I will hail you as such to anyone that asks. It is oh so very rare that a failed adaptation succeeds so amazingly well. You have won undying appreciation for sticking to your vision.
In gratitude, and perpetual appreciation,