Snowpiercer is one of those films I meant to get round to watching for ages, and then came the news that a Blu-ray was finally being released in the UK. However, like buses, there’s none for ages and then 2 come along at once, because as this 2013 movies is scheduled for release on May 25th 2020, so is the new Netflix series of the same name.
Thanks to too many lunatics not realising that Greta Thunberg was a puppet for big business who want to control the world and the markets, all the countries of the world are forced to fill the air with technical thingummyjigs to bring the temperature down… but it goes too far, and now the world is a frozen ice box.
That was 2014, and the year is now 2031, with everyone on the train still under lockdown from those in control. Amongst the rag-tag bunch in the tail section are Edgar (Jamie Bell), who can’t remember what steak tastes like since they’re stuck with only eating long, black protein blocks; and Gilliam (John Hurt), the elderly voice of reason in this dystopian new world, and a world that feels as controlled as George Orwell’s 1984, which saw Hurt in the lead role as Winston Smith.
The plan is to bust a man called Nam (Song Kang Ho, Parasite) out of the train’s prison, and make their way to the very front of the train and meet the mysterious creator of the train, Wilford (Ed Harris), who no-one ever sees. As Curtis (Chris Evans, Defending Jacob) says, “Control the Engine, control the world”. Can they find an opening and overpower the armed guards, and get through all the doors required to get from ‘cattle class’ up to more prestigious surroundings?
Naturally, I won’t give spoilers about how things turn out. – All I’ll say is that if they didn’t break out of the tail section, there wouldn’t be much point to the movie, but just how far do they get? Excuse the pun, but for this train journey which goes all around the world and never stops, it’s not about the destination, but the journey.
Plus, it’s suffice to conclude that it offers a potential continuation of the story. There was no sequel to the film, but at the time of posting this review, I don’t know if the series takes this option and runs with it, or whether it takes the base premise and expands upon that.
Add in the indoctrination of children born on the train into believing wilford is some sort of new God, along with Tilda Swinton, who’s hilarious as gruff Northerner, Minister Mason, taking charge on Wilford’s behalf; and given how every section of the train has its own unique vision, and along with the brief refrain of Moonlight And The Stars And You – during a scene where the screen is bathed in a single color – it’s clearly an affectionate homage back to The Shining.
I love an ‘end of the world’-style drama, and now that I know that next week brings a ten-part Netflix series (with an expected second one planned), both based on the existing French graphic novel, I expect there’s a whole ton of extra story that can go into this, and I’m looking forward to checking that out.
However things turn out, Snowpiercer is a timely release because at the moment, the world does feel like it’s ended, given everything that’s going on.
Shot in Super 35, the cinematic presentation for this was 1.85:1, but the Blu-ray is opened up slightly more to 1.78:1 so it fills the 16:9 screen. I can’t remember the last time I saw a mainstream film effectively shot in 16:9, but it looks stunning throughout. Similarly, the new Netflix series is also 16:9.
I saw this was a 15-certificate, and was quite surprised, since there’s a number of extremely loud, violent moments which made it feel much more like an 18-cert. There’s also some pretty grim revelations about what those in the tail section used to have to suffer.
The extras are as follows:
- Transperceneige: From the Blank Page to the Blank Screen (54:28): This an extensive documentary, taking the vision from the graphic novel to the movie screen, split into 8 chapers – so doing better on a minutes-per-chapter basis than the film itself – and given he origin of the novel, it’s largely French dialogue with English subtitles.
- Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer (4:38): A simple piece made for the likes of BBC Breakfast to slot into their schedule to suit, as interview segments are mixed in with film clips.
- The Birth of Snowpiercer (4:19): Perhaps a much more concise version of the initial ‘making of’, as the director chanced upon the original graphic novel and it set the ideas in motion. There’s a lot of interview snippets in this, but all too often, they get drowned out by the music, and there are no subtitles for the English dialogue.
- The End of the World, and the New Beginning (1:01): Yona tells the story of the Earth as the plan to solve the world’s prolems all went wrong.
- Characters (5:05): A very brief look at the characters in three sections, for the front section, the prison section and the tail section.
The main menu features music from the film mixed with clips. There are a bog-standard 12 chapters and subtitles are in English only.
Running time: 127 minutes
Released: May 25th 2020
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD-MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH
Format: 1.78:1 (Super 35)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Producers: Tae Sung Jeong, Wonjo Jeong, Lee Tae Hun, Steven Nam, Park Chan-wook, TJ Park
Screenplay: Bong Joon Ho, Kelly Masterson
Graphic novel Le Transperceneige: Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, Jean-Marc Rochette
Music: Marco Beltrami
Curtis: Chris Evans
Namgoong Minsoo: Song Kang Ho
Minister Mason: Tilda Swinton
Edgar: Jamie Bell
Gilliam: John Hurt
Wilford: Ed Harris
Tanya: Octavia Spencer
Andrew: Ewen Bremner
Yona: Ko Asung
Teacher: Alison Pill
Grey: Luke Pasqualino
Franco the Elder: Vlad Ivanov
Franco the Younger: Adnan Haskovic
Claude: Emma Levie
Fuyu: Stephen Park
Painter: Clark Middleton
Tim: Marcanthonee Reis
Paul: Paul Lazar
Egg-Head: Tómas Lemarquis
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.