Now Playing: Snowpiercer

dir: Bong Joon-ho, S. Korea, 2013
Rating: 8.4


Now playing as an exclusive engagement at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, and elsewhere around the country in limited release, is Snowpiercer, a formidable dystopian sci-fi action movie from the prodigiously talented South Korean writer/director Bong Joon-ho. Snowpiercer is an international co-production designed to have broad-based global appeal: the script was adapted by Bong and American playwright Kelly Masterson from the acclaimed French graphic novel by Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette, and the cast boasts an impressively motley crew of movie stars from Europe, Asia and North America (headed by none other than “Captain America” himself, Chris Evans). This being a Bong Joon-ho film, there is also a sly, undeniably Marxist slant. Bong, a member of the Democratic Labor Party (the most progressive in South Korea), is no stranger to subtly incorporating political messages into traditional genre fare. Memories of Murder (2003) was a slam-bang police procedural that also painted a trenchant portrait of life under a military dictatorship while The Host (2006) used the monster-movie format as the framework for an eye-opening anti-global-capitalist screed.

Snowpiercer continues Bong’s admirable trend of using Hollywood genre tropes to say some very un-Hollywood things by telling the story of how the few remaining survivors of an apocalyptic event are engaged in class warfare on a train that must continually circle the earth. The film’s “revenge of the 99%” plot, however, is staged first and foremost as a series of thrilling action set-pieces, which, along with the charismatic star turns and state-of-the-art CGI effects, should have been more than enough to appeal to the “Transformers crowd.” Unfortunately, stateside distributor the Weinstein Company appears to have seriously miscalculated Snowpiercer‘s commercial prospects. After a protracted and notorious battle with Bong over final cut (Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein wanted to elide 20 minutes and add an explanatory voice-over), the Weinstein Company ultimately decided to treat it as an arthouse specialty item rather than the mass entertainment it so obviously is. When I belatedly caught up with it on its 14th day of screening at the Music Box, the show I attended was sold out and scores of people were being turned away at the door.


The most impressive aspect of Snowpiercer is its dazzling production design. Bong has always made meticulous looking, image-driven movies and, now that he has the biggest budget he has ever been allowed to work with, he really lets it fly. The CGI landscapes of the earth as it might look plunged into a new ice age are nifty, but the interior design of the train cars is even more eye-popping. The film begins with images that are appropriately grimy, desaturated and drab as Bong focuses on the rear of the train; this is where the working-class characters (under the leadership of John Hurt’s Gilliam — no doubt a reference to the creator of Brazil) have been ghettoized. The visual style then becomes increasingly colorful and ornate as the back-of-the-train’s pointedly multi-racial coalition (which includes characters played by Evans, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer and Song Kang-ho) mount a revolt and work their way towards the front of the train where the “one-percenters” are living in the lap of luxury. This dichotomy is not unlike the above/below-ground schism of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis: both films comment on the present day by imagining a future where the gulf between rich and poor is taken to a logical but disturbing extreme.

The best scene of all takes place in a train compartment that functions as an elementary school where children are being force-fed propaganda about Wilford (Ed Harris), the mysterious great white father who invented the train and lives in its engine. While the film ultimately belongs to Tilda Swinton — hilarious as Mason, Wilford’s second-in-command and a cartoonish villain buried beneath almost as much prosthetics and make-up as she wore in The Grand Budapest Hotel — she is herself momentarily upstaged in this scene; the talented young Canadian actress Alison Pill amazes as a schoolteacher leading the children through maniacally gleeful sing-alongs (“What happens if the engine stops? / We all freeze and die!”). While nothing in the film’s too-protracted climax can match the invention of this delightfully candy-colored sequence (nor an earlier, elaborately choreographed battle scene between the torch-wielding poor and the hooded, axe-wielding security guards of the rich), Snowpiercer is still far and away the best bet for anyone looking for a “summer popcorn movie.” Bong Joon-ho reminds us of something that Hollywood seems to have depressingly forgotten: that art and entertainment need not be seen as mutually exclusive concepts.

You can check out the trailer for Snowpiercer via YouTube below:


About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

44 responses to “Now Playing: Snowpiercer

  • John Charet

    Spot-on comments as usual:) I agree with you about Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein. Jonathan Rosenbaum has expressed similar opinions about him in the past. Seriously, Weinstein has no respect for a filmmaker’s vision. Tarantino may think he is a genius, but that is because his films do not suffer the kind of fate or under-promotion that occurs when Weinstein does not like the final product. Thank god, Snowpiercer was released in its entirety. Shame that it is only playing in a few theaters right now (at least to my knowledge). This reminds me of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and like that film, it was released in its entirety, but only played in a few theaters in each state. I agree, this should be seen in more theaters and Harvey Weinstein deserves to be labeled a dunce here considering how unfair he is treating this film. As great as the action sequences are, they refreshingly serve as window dressing to the ideas and imagination on depicted here. The production design is just dazzling as you say and they are worthy of all the films you compare them to. Tilda Swinton has had quite a year with 2014. She was in heavy makeup in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is sure to be placed on a lot of critics best lists at the end of the year and now a summer blockbuster of sorts with Snowpiercer.

  • John Charet

    P.S. since we are only in July, I have given three films so far this year
    * * * * out of * * * * stars and a huge number of other ones (more than I can count) * * * 1/2 stars. For the time being, I will give you the list of the films I gave * * * * stars to in the following sentence. The films are: Boyhood (Dir: Richard Linklater), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Dir: Wes Anderson) and Jodorowsky’s Dune (Dir: Frank Pavich) (Documentary). I will give you a list of the * * * 1/2 star ones on another day. Oh and just in case you are wondering, I gave Snowpiercer * * * 1/2 stars and speaking of my Tilda Swinton talk in my above reply, she also appears in arguably heavy makeup here as well. P.S. I can’t wait to see your review of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood:)

  • Top Ten Films of 2014 | White City Cinema

    […] 24. Snowpiercer (Bong, South Korea) – Music Box. Rating: 8.4. Full review here. […]

  • Ivona Jesic

    “Snowpiercer” by Boon Joon-ho. Impressive movie in one hand unrealistic but the main idea is something that is definitely real and true. Well, when I mentioned the main idea I was thinking about social inequality and that’s something that is definitely real and present in our lives and our society. The movie begins with scenes from last part of the train where is the lowest class, at the beginning movie we are not conscious what is happening but how the movie is going we are getting idea about what is happening and who are poor people at the end of the train. Something that definitely caught my attention is that train by it self is organized in the way from the last, poorest and dirtiest wagon leading to first cleanest and richest. Also going through this wagons people are separated in that way that when we come to the top wagon there is the “king” of the train and someone who is really conscious what is happening and that at the end people are starving but he doesn’t want to do anything about is. Unfortunately all this remind me of country I came from where unfortunately people are divided on the level how much wealth they possess and people in the parliamentary those who are the richest same as King of the train Wilford in this movie politicians know situation in what people are living but they do not care and do not want to take serious steps to improve people’s lives. End of this movie is very satisfying from my perspectives because polar bear shows us even if the train is broken life will not end.

  • Ivana Jesic

    The movie “Snowpiercer”produced by Bong Joon-ho is the awesome movie about the people who live on the train. I think that director of this film wants to show to us that different class of people is not treated in the same way. The train that we saw in this film is separated from a lot of different wagons. The film starts in the last wagon or tail of the train. That is definitely the darkest and the saddest place in the entire film. People are dirty, they are eating protein bars for which we will find out later that are made of bees.That group of people in search of a better future, and children who are abducted by a parent and taken to work in the engine of the train. The film starts with really dark images and the more the film takes place it becomes brighter and full of colors. As I mentioned before that train was separated on different wagons some of them are a wagon with garden , next one aquarium, then the school which is I think the brightest and nicest place in the entire train. Also, the atmosphere in that wagon is awesome those kids that are singing the song are really sweet. Although, there are the yellow cabin and night club. All these wagons show everything that people need and enjoy and also everything that people in the tail of the train didn’t have. This film is very educative because it teach us that all of us deserve the best and all of us are equal not just one group of people should have privileges. My personal opinion is that during the whole film people in the tail of the train was leaving in the huge lie that life outside of the train is impossible. Also, that end of the film sends the special message that outside of that train life is possible by screening the polar bear at the top of the hill.

  • Davis Negrillo (@DNEGRILLO)

    Snowpiercer was a great film to show how classes are so segregated and treated, well told by Bong Joon-Ho. Being in the tail section, the low class section, the clothes are raggedy, there are no lights and the people are very dirty. They get treated like animals, live stock almost. The children being ripped from the parents to power the train was both saddening and a great metaphor for kids these days. Although, kids in our plane of existence don’t necessarily get ripped from their parents, they do have to work hard which usually takes over their lives preventing them from an education and advancing their family class. The protein blocks were another example of treatment towards the lower class citizens. Like society today, the foods the lower working class citizen can afford are nothing short of disgusting blends of nastiness. You need to be at least a middle class to be able to enjoy healthy foods and if you want organic, well, now you need to really get up the class ladder. My favorite scene was the entire brutal war scene between the tail and the hooded security guard. It was hilarious when the door opened and all you see is this crowd of, what looked to me as a crap load of medieval executioners, axes and all. And then of course the fish scene was just, weird. But I would assume that the fish was some sort of poisonous fish but it was never elaborated throughout the fighting. And then, the yell for fire; that was the start of a hell of a time Mason (Tilda Swinton) was not expecting and essentially got a knife in her bum. As you mentioned, the Weinstein Company absolutely underrated the outcome of this film. It would not have had as big an impact on the box office finances as Transformers did, but I believe it absolutely had potential of being well planted film in the people’s minds. This film, had I seen an ad or some sort of push to theaters when it was being released would definitely have made it on my list of movies to see in theaters.

  • brad fagan

    Snowpiercer is a futuristic account of a train carrying several thousand passengers blindly into the wilderness– as the world plunges into a manmade ice age in the early twenty-first century. The film is all about Wilford, a wealthy industrialist, commandeering a high speed train through a desolate landscape in order to preserve his privileged life style. The passengers consist of four social casts: the elite who reside in the front of the train, a technically advanced middle class, and the poorest and most deprived people who are referred to as the proletariat. The bourgeoisie live in a luxurious manner in the front cars, while the proletariat barely subsists (on protein bars made from their slaughtered children) in the back of the train. The audience is witnessing the way in which the bourgeoisie enslaves the proletariat in order to perpetuate a class society. This voyage exemplifies a class system which systematically brainwashes the poor in order to produce more and more wealth for the the rich.
    Several unsuccessful revolts occurred in the back of the train—one of which was led by Gilliam, an older gentleman who clearly recalls a conversation he once had with Nangoong. Nangoong was a brilliant engineer that figured out how to override the system of interlocking doors which separate various compartments leading to the front of the train. He was the first person to recognize that the engine compartment is vulnerable; and therefore, it is theoretically possible for the workers to rise up and overthrow the ruling class. Furthermore, Edgar, Tanya, and Yona (Nangoong’s daughter) are willing to sacrifice themselves for the great good in order to liberate the remaining members of the human race.
    In conclusion, Boon Jong-Ho sci-fi is all about how society exploits the weak and forces them into wage- slavery— while those with political and economic power have access to the best private schools, the finest cuisine, designer clothes, and hundred thousand dollar cars.

  • Prat Moshy

    Snowpiercer has officially became the number one movie we have had to watch in this class. I enjoyed the after the world type of setting that it delivered. Curtis would have to be the bravest character we have encountered so far. He took the initiative to finish what needed to be done. The movie did a lot to show how the world that we once knew ended to be the same world that they are living in. Bong took his time making sure each train cart represented how our world is. Starting off from poverty and making it up from middle class to the rich class. It also shows how unaware the rich class is from seeing how the low class is being treated. I think it was a genius idea because the train to me represents the new world and it is sort of like Bong took the world and confided it into one train. I thought Bong did a great job incorporating what the train needed to have in it in order for this idea to become alive. He incorporated the population count, the different ethnicity and languages that needed to be preserved. Even the concept of the Noah’s ark was brought into it.

  • Jowayne Calma

    Snowpiercer is a sci-fi movie starring Chris Evans as Curtis. A man who lead the revolution against the higher authorities. Due to a climate engineering failure the world turned into ice age and everything who was in the train only survived. Curtis belongs to the people living at the end of the train. Due to the constant abuse people at the end of the train are receiving, Curtis started a revolt against the authorities to make their way up to the first coach. As they are getting near to the head of the train every battle becomes tougher, until three of them Namgoong, Yona and Curtis survived. Curtis was caught in a situation of accepting Wilford’s offer to replace him. The film ended with only Yona and Timmy survived after Namgoong lit the kronole bomb which caused a big avalanche and derailed the train. Watching the movie somehow reminded me of the Hunger Games. The gloomy colors of the train’s tail is similar to colors scheme presented everytime the poor districts are shown in Hunger Games. Same with the colors the poor people wear and the rich people having bright fancy outfits. This movie tackled almost every problems in the society: Inequality, abuse of authority, brain washing/indoctrination of people, child labor, drug abuse, starvation, environmental problem even cannibalism. In my opinion as Curtis and his team makes their way to the head, the problems that are depicted on coaches are becoming more sensitive; Child Labor and Cannibalism being the most sensitive. Overall, Snowpiercer was a great movie to watch! I really like the part where the child brings the torch to where the attack was happening. That was such an exhilarating scene!

  • Irfan Makani

    Snowpiercer is a the best movie that I’ve seen in this class so far. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the whole movie. That is a good sign for the director if he can keep the audience engaged and anticipated about what happens next. Chris Evans does a good job playing the role of the hero who is trying to get his very large group to the front of the train that holds together humanity. He is intelligent and determined; he was able to detect that bullets have already been extinct and the guards cant have any. I like how Curtis had to decide whether to save his friend or capture Deputy Minister Mason. He chose to capture Mason because he has to look after the whole train and stop at nothing. Without a doubt this was a tough choice, but had to be made in order to lead his group to safety. Namgoong and Yona are important characters that support Curtis and help complete his mission. I like Namgoong’s theory of there being life outside of the train. In the end, we are shown a polar bear that I believe indicates that human life is possible. All the characters do a good job and seem to have some insight on finding the path back to normal life. Winfred plays the role of the typical rich man who wants to destroy the people. He is caught and destroyed in the end after Curtis refuses to abandon his crew, which is what a hero does.

  • Dakota D

    (Contains Spoilers) Snowpiercer shows us how such simple character decisions can drive a strong story through a feature length film. Through Curtis’s fight to the front of the train where he can confront Wilford after 17 years of suffering he is consistently plagued with the decision of left or right. He can either proceed forward, right, or return to the “safety” and what he is familiar with in the rear of the train, left. With each conflict where he must choose left or right Joon-ho Bong takes time to show Curtis looking back and forward and what lies before him in each direction. One of Curtis’s toughest decisions takes place during the New Years Fight where the tail sections clashes with the security of the more lucrative front section. During this fight his best friend, Edgar, is caught my knife point by one of the main security guards. Meanwhile, Mason in charge of the tail section, is getting away. We see Curtis in the middle of these two conflicts, and he must choose left to save Edgar or right and capture the rook to move down the rest of the train. In this instance we feel the same as him, and are put on edge. Do we save our best friend who we see (emphasis on see) being held by knife point and regress to being condemned to the tail section or capture Mason the key to our victory while sacrificing Edgar. It is pivotal choices like these that audiences don’t experience in modern cinema. We understand the conflicts but rarely do we see what the main protagonist is seeing, how he is evaluating that choice, and his repercussions with his choice. We see Curtis move to capture Mason, all while showing his displeasure for his choice through closing his eyes, charging head first, and grimacing. Very rarely is the audience put in the position of the protagonist where we naturally must make a decision and not be just an observer even if it’s as simple as left or right.

  • Quin Siegel

    Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho, is a fun and exciting sci fi film that runs for two hours and six minutes, but not a minute too long. At first, Snowpiercers looks like an average sci fi, action film, but it is a very telling movie about class warfare, inequality, and race. As you stated in your review, Snowpiercer does a great job of combining art and entertainment into one.
    The most apparent thing to me in the film was Bong Joon-ho’s Marxist slant that you discussed. The overarching plot comes almost straight from the Communist Manifesto as the proletariat, back of the train, are rebelling against the bourgeoisie, 1% in the front of the train, for what the film says is the third time. The poor in the back of the train are fed disgusting, jelly like protein bars that are really made out of ground up cockroaches. They live in their filth, get fed filth, and are treated by the rest of the train as filth.
    While approaching these topics, the film is also an extremely badass action film. The fight scene in the train cart with the torches was one of my favorite scenes in the film. It was very entertaining to watch and was choreographed well. I could not help but laugh when the soldiers raised up the fish and tipped their blades in its blood. It was so ridiculous, like many scenes from the film, that it was parodying the sci fi genre in a way. This was made more evident when later one of the soldiers slips on the fish and dies.
    The scene where Curtis and Franco have a shootout across the train carts was when I realized Snowpiercer must be mocking the sci fi and action genre while also functioning as one. The film goes in depth to explain the biology and chemistry of how the ecosystem of the train must be managed and watched very carefully. However, when it came to the physics of a shootout the film threw science out the window. The ridiculousness of Curtis and Franco being able to shoot each other while both moving 100 miles per hour, with extreme winds, through thick glass, and also doing it with sub machine guns is truly hilarious.

  • Brian Stern

    BONG Joon-ho’s 2013 film “Snowpiercer” falls under the classification of the Science Fiction genre. The basic outline of the story is that 18 years prior to the start of the film scientists in an effort to reverse the effects of Global Warming disperse a chemical agent named CW-7 around the world and rather than fixing the problem the opposite effect happened and the world begun another ice age. As far as we are aware as an audience the only survivors of this ice age are the people are those on a perpetually running self sustaining train circling the world. Each loop around the world takes one year to complete. The overall themes seen within this film is a somewhat satirical take on social classes as well as population overload. In terms of the class system in the movie they are separated by train car. You are first introduced to poor or the lowest of the classes on the train located in the back of the train even behind the prison and processing system cars. I found it interesting the way they designated the classes. Up until the point before they showed the rich or wealthy people in their respective train cars doing the stereotypical rich person activities the separation of classes made perfect sense. After that point it became a little hazy. It was hazy to me why from the back of the train you go from grime to cleaner then you end at a place resembling an opium den which is closest to the engine or front of the train. The only conclusion I could ascertain why both the slums and the opium dens were placed on opposite ends of the train would be due to the fact that many people are in a bubble. They would rather be ignorant inside it then know the grimy truth that lays outside of it.

    In terms of directing and cinematography I found this to be up it to be top notch. About a day or so after watching “Snowpiercer” I watched one of BONG’S earlier films to see if I could make any comparisons to what could possible be his style. The film I watched was 2006’s “The Host”. One comparison two compare the style is the use of comedy to move a scene along. “The Host” is supposed to have the feel of a monster movie but it is full of comedy elements. “Snowpiercer” only has a few such elements scattered throughout but over all keeps a quasi-serious tone. There are a number of comedic moments the two that stand out for me is the slapstick slipping on the fish gag and the over the top cult like brainwashing school teacher sing along scene. Aside from that I found a specific plot device interesting. For a film with a mainly English Speaking cast that is directed and stars Korean speaking people I found the use of the mysterious universal translator to be an interesting way overcome the language barrier. Usually you are use to seeing some form of a person relaying translation or a crude game of charades. The use of a device has been used before but most times when I’ve seen it used the user wouldn’t get a translation it would make it so whoever was in the vicinity of it would appear to be speaking the wearer’s native language. Two films that come to mind that use these are, “The Green Lantern”(2011) where the power ring among other things translates for the main character as well as “The Last Starfighter”(1984) where the main character in that film is tagged with some sort of translator circuitry.

  • Nick Weimer



    “Snowpiercer” has all its (as Weinstein might say) ‘arthouse elements’ without neglecting to work as a blockbuster sci-fi (while simultaneously making fun of (and embracing) its blockbustery tropes). It’s a good, fun satirical allegory, full of great, ridiculous action sequences, and absurd humor. It certainly deserved a wider release. I think it would have done just fine. Though it at least it brought a lot of people to the Music Box!

    There are a few great references I noticed*, mostly to Terry Gilliam’s fantastically absurd dystopian scifi film(s), “Brazil” (and “12 Monkeys”**), which Bong is surely a big fan of. First, there’s simply the absurd dystopian future combined with some old-guy leader-type named Gilliam. Already Bong has me thinking of “Brazil” a little bit, but then those elements are also combined with Tilda Swinton’s wonderfully over-the-top character who seems to have tumbled right out of Gilliam’s bureaucratic nightmare with all her amazing monologues (which are some of the very-best-parts of the film) about ‘knowing-one’s-place-in-The-Great-Train-of-The-Benevolent-Wilfred’.*** Then, of course, they put a shoe on her head and tell her it “becomes her well”, and it DOES; Oh how it does! I thought this was a pretty great, satisfying little reference to “Brazil”, that was actually well-tied into the story through Tilda’s-earlier-speech about ‘Being-The-Shoe’ (Which is just one of the many little metaphors for ‘The Metaphor’ scattered throughout the film (Such as the aquarium/sushi exposition)). The way the shoe-on-head homage is integrated makes it more than JUST a reference to something external. I think it was pretty well-deployed.
    ( )

    Also, there’s a ‘light’ homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. When they’re in the Foggy-Sauna-Room-of-the-Super-Long-Intimate-Close-Up-Deaths, the yellowy even-lighting is very similar to that seen in the The Gold Room (The Shining’s Bar/Ballroom (full of (SPOILER) spooky gho0o0osts!)), and the song that plays during the Gold Room scene can be heard when Snowpiercer’s ‘slasher-movie-villian-slash-hitman-guy’ is getting ready to search the stalls.
    ( )

    Also: I totally agree that the classroom/brainwashing bit is the best scene in the film, especially when paired with it’s violent ending. Does the rousing rendition of “What happens if the engine dies; We all Freeze and Die!” sort-of, maybe allow for an unofficial rechristening of the film as “Speed 3: The Science-Fictional Musical”?

    Also, Also: Where do they get all the bugs for the bug-bars?
    -=- =- =- -= -=-= -=- = =–= -=-=– =-== -= –=- =- -=- =-= -=-= – -=

    * Which makes me feel like there are probably a lot of references I DIDN’T catch.

    ** The conditions in the back of the train are reminiscent of the time-traveling, post-plague future-society from 12 Monkeys.

    *** And her repeatedly saying “So it is,” is, I think, a great reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five’s repetition of “So it goes.” I think that this homage effectively deepens the film by calling to mind the meaning of the referenced phrase. This is how homage SHOULD be used.

  • Esho Youkhana

    “Snowpiercer” by Boon Joon-ho has officially made it to my top 25 list of movies. The movie reminded me of “Max Fury: Fury Road” (George Miller) because of the craziness in the film. The movie starts out in a gray creepy feeling because of the ghetto looking environment of the peasants. The costume team was really well at showing off the perfect outfits for every character and class of characters. The film has a crazy and spooky thrill to it just like Mad Max due to the violent and bizarre acting of the characters. Lots of gray and black shots mixed with gore and steam punk. The movie is funny is some parts while maintaining a stressed and anxious type of feeling. The characters are serious when they need to be and playful when they need to be. The decorated train is mind blowing because there are so many details to every new cart train they enter. Every cart of the train has its own unique look and feel. Agreeing with Professor Smith, the classroom scene with the child is definitely the best scene. The scene is absolutely bizarre with how the children are brainwashed and how chaotic the scene is. Showing a different part of the depressing train, the classroom is filled with bright colors and decorations. The children are chanting What happens if the engine stops? / We all freeze and die!” The yelling and singing of the children with the dark feeling of creepiness makes the scene super thrilling. The movie main point has to do with society and pretty much takes a shit on capitalist thoughts. It has to do with classes of our society and makes the viewers of the film think differently (with the scene when Evan gets told to take over the train). The gore and CGI in the film are really neat and it shows off of how much a expert Bong is with the CGI. The world outside of the train looks depressing in a horrific way and the landscape really stands out. It speaks a great message dealing with classes of society and how they effect each other. The film was just pure entertainment and thrill which i really enjoyed.

  • Esam Mohammed

    The film Snowpiercer, does an excellent job at highlighting social problems faced by many societies throughout the world. Director Bong Joon ho uses symbolism and creativity to deliver his message to the audience. After global warming has caused the Earth’s temperature to drop, a small society of people resort to living on a train that travels around the Earth. In the back of the train lives the poor passengers whose living conditions are dire, while those in the front of the train are living a lavish lifestyle. After being oppressed for too long the back of the train revolts against the front and slowly fights their way towards the front of the train. What makes this film great is the details that are added to the story line. For example when the characters enter the classroom, there is a scene where the teacher,played by Alison Pill, mentions historical events that occurred on the train, such as the seven people who tried to escape or the revolution that occurred in fourth year of the train. Instead of telling the students why these events occurred, she ends with how great the train is. I believe Bong Joon ho was directing this scene towards the United States educational system and how some institutions cherry pick history. The small details that the director adds to the story line are what help make this film phenomenal .

  • Mouaz Zabadneh

    Snowpiercer talks about a man who lived half his life in a train which is 17 years and they were sitting all the way in the back station of the train. The world around them was freezing so they can’t skip away from the train otherwise they will die. The train supposed to be running all the time otherwise that people were taught if they leave it they will freeze and die.
    I think the director of the movie is trying to teach us that we might learn stuff which is wrong and then people around us might believe it too but that might be wrong and therefore we see the kids in the class they were taught that if the train will stop they will die, but the fact is when the girl and the boys went out of the train they were scared until they saw bear which means that even though it’s freezing out there but still there is people or animals living which means that they could live.

    Overall the movie was very interesting, and it delivered every strong message that not all things you learn is true and no matter how life is hard there is still a way to escape or solve your problems

  • whalen207

    Wow. Wow wow wow. I thought I loved Stoker, but this is by far is the best movie we’ve seen in class this semester. I can appreciate slow dramas and long romances, but what really drives me is well-choreographed action, attention to detail, and effective dialogue. Snowpiercer has all three.

    To mention all the “hidden” meanings in this film (many of them are quite overt, as in Stoker) would take a novel, and not just a graphic novel. I feel like I’d need a full encyclopedia set to record all of the amazingly dense imagery Joon-Ho has crammed onto the silver screen… but I can talk about the class-struggle themes, at least. From the very beginning we see Curtis bartering with Tanya’s son, and him wanting nothing to do with it. Mason (played by Tilda Swinton) spends a good chunk of her time screaming about how those in the back of the train should know their place: she is the head, and they are the shoe.

    Most of how the punishments, beatings, and full-on warfare by the “train police” are handled screams gulag to me. Russian ski masks, executioner axes and “night tactics” make them all the more brutal, sapping any pity or understanding the audience had for the group of rowdy policemen. I also adored the scene with the schoolhouse and I think Alison Pill nailed that performance as the schoolteacher, but my favorite part was actually the events leading up to the brutal fight in the bathhouse. The businessman/enforcer clearly represents the Orwellian trope of the capitalist “pig”, seemingly indestructible and completely devoid of morality as he seeks to restore order. I love it, and he’s my favorite character.

    Also! I know this review’s a bit late, but SUPER IMPORTANT:
    Every Frame A Painting (one of my favorite YouTube channels) has a very insightful analysis on how every single choice the protagonist makes in Snowpiercer is based on Left (back towards what makes him human) or Right (willing to kill, to debase, and to maybe lose his original purpose just to advance) —

    It’s a great watch.

  • Omar Khairi Mohammed

    In the film Snowpiercer, director Bong Joon-Ho tackles many political issues that impact the world today. One of the most prominent examples of this would be how the upper class members in the front of the train exploit the lower class members at the back of the train. An example from the film would be when the two children are taken away from their families, and later are found to be used as “parts” of the train so it can continue to run. This problem is very common all over the world, particularly in the United States, where billion dollar corporations are over-working their employees and paying them a wage they can’t live on. Another example would be how the design of train cars in the back represent a ghetto. It appears in the film that the back of the train holds the most people and hence it is crowded and they eat what is essentially garbage. In the U.S. healthy organic food is more expensive the junk food, so most people who are in the lower class are essentially forced to eat food that is killing them. The theme of this film seems to revolve around class-warfare and the root of the problem comes from the fact that many people have opened their eyes to the injustice that is being done to them by their wealthy overloads.

  • natalie choute

    I loved watching Snowpiercer!! This movie was made to attract the Transformers fan club and it trumps Transformers. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve rented this movie OnDemand versus seeing it in theatres because it’s not a typical genre I would see on my own. So with that I thank you for showing this film because it was great to watch. I especially loved the big fight scene. The pace of the movie moved faster at this point. The build up was great, as Curtis and the rest open the door there are the men with masks and axes standing there. As the men stand there they begin to pass around a fish, slice it up, and it’s thrown in the back of the cart, and the fight begins. I know the fish was so random to others but I believe it had meaning. There are larger fish to fry and the beginning for Curtis started there. It was beautifully pieced together. There was a moment where Curtis killed a soldier and the blood is on his face, the camera slides over to his friend who is watching with shock and disturbed look on his face. In that moment you feel this sense of pleasure coming from Curtis. Bong Joon-Ho did a great job in making each kill feel more than just that. It was thrilling when it shouldn’t have been. Each kill was very intimate.

  • Jimmy Nellamattathil

    As one of the best films seen so far in class, Snowpiercer is not only a film i enjoyed, it is a film by a director in which i am going to go out of my way to watch other films of. i enjoyed the futuristic setting and the action the film had to offer, as well as the acting by the main character, the school teacher and Tilda. The film was surprisingly funny, and kept my interest at the highest level throughout. The only part of the film i was not satisfied with was the absolute ending. I enjoyed the final scenes when anarchy had taken over and the train blew up, but to see the boy and girl as the only survivors was confusing. If the train held the last members of the world on it, and they were all killed except for a small boy and a drug addicted girl, how can civilization continue? besides the ending the film was wonderful.

  • Amel Djurovic

    Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho is a movie that is about a dystopian future where the world has frozen and the remaining humans are on a forever moving train. This film was a great watch for me since it had excellent visuals, a unique plot, and great acting. The visuals were interesting from the start. Like the article mentioned, each time the low class of the train moved to another car, a different environment would show. Curtis and his fellow tail car members lived in the back. There they were the most mistreated and undersupplied group of people. They went from no windows and packed together to elaborate designed cars with more than enough space for all of them. They were controlled by the upper class until the revolt started, starting a class war. As they move from car to car, they see the difference in care and luxury to their experience. The train has things such as a living underwater ecosystem, a teaching car, an agricultural car, and even a club car. They go through all of this to eventually reach the front, and the film ends as Yona and Timmy, the only survivors, walk out to the world they never been in. There is hope though since they see a polar bear, symbolizing that there’s life outside the train. The plot was interesting to me since though this type of situation seems unimaginable, it accurately shows the class wars that we still experience today. I think the film captures how desperate the low class has to be and how unequal the classes are, especially between the top(front) and bottom(back) classes. For example, Curtis has to resort to cannibalism as the upper class are partying and eating sushi. I also think that the actors played their parts brilliantly. Like in the article, I felt that the school teacher did a great job in portraying how crazy the people on that train were. But I felt Mason played her role exceptionally well. I instantly disliked her and throughout the film and she portrayed a high class snob perfectly. I also noticed that friendship is a theme that is also in Snowpiercer similar to the 2 past movies we watched. I thought Curtis’s relationship with the fellow tail members was solid and essentially in their revolt against the upper class. They were risking and losing their lives for each other. Except for his father figure Gilliam, who was working with Wilford to reduce the population of the tail end car. Overall, Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho is a movie that portrays class welfare better than most, and is accompanied by great visuals and acting. A great watch.

  • Matthew Burman

    Snowpiercer is an intense look into a dystopian future where the world has gone through an ice age. This leads to a transportation tycoon creating a train that will hold humanity until the ice melts on the earth. The only problem with the train is the vast difference in economical classes. Towards the back of the train is the lower class, this is where the people are crammed in close quarters and fed nothing but gelatinous black protein bars. The main character Curtis played by Chris Evans, is the leader of a revolution towards the front of the train. As the revolution begins more and more is left unanswered such as who is sending Curtis the hidden messages that help his cause. In between scenes of pure carnage is some beautiful cinematography, these scenes are vital because they show that some people on the train still have decency within them. As a snow flake falls into the cabin of the train the music fades into the background and you can see the emotion portrayed on the characters faces. Bong Joon ho uses these moments to allude to the ending of the story. As Professor Smith said the best scene is when the protagonists enter the education train car of the upper class. The teacher is leading the children through grim sing alongs and quickly changes into a gun wielding maniac. As the characters end up in the engine room with the inventor of the train, Wilford. Curtis learns that it was Wilford who was sending him the letters and he was planning the revolution the entire time. Wilford tells Curtis that the train is a closed ecosystem that must have a certain amount of people in order to run properly. After that he then tells him that Curtis is going to take over as the leader of the train once he passes. However Curtis has other plans and attacks Wilford. An explosion blows up part of the train and sets off an avalanche which causes majority of the train to derail killing almost everyone on board. The only two survivors leave the train into the arctic and gaze upon a polar bear. The bear symbolizes the possibility of survival outside the train and hope for the only two left. This movie is a great story about the lower class revolting against the 1%. Bong Joon ho is a part of the Democratic Party in South Korea and many of his moves have symbolism hidden within them.

  • Giuseppe Inserra

    Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho, is a film that reflects the harsh realities of the real world in a darker way as well as on a much smaller scale. The poor people of the world are stuck in the worst conditions while the rich get to live lavish lives that are essentially the same as before the ice age occurs. In both groups their is clear diversity but that is owed to the fact that these are the last people on Earth and are forced to coexist. The Marxist idealogies in this film are clear and add a layer of reasoning behind the actions of Curtis as he is tricked by Gilliam into believing he is really revolting while it is all a ride. The use of lighting in this film is a way to show the difference between the two major classes in the sense that bright lights equal positivity and happiness and dark lighting eqauls negativity and depression. This film challenges the sociatal norms of classes but also in a way shows that revolting is not a guaranteed success and that it can possible be nothing more that a lie fed to you by the higher ups.

  • Rosa Inserra

    Snowpierccer is a film that has a really good concept, but I feel like they messed up on some key scenes and movie techniques. The first mistake, in my opinion, was at the start of the film where they had the exposition of the film told by news reports and text on the screen is such a lazy way of storytelling. It has been done countless times and it would’ve been much better if they would’ve started with a video similar to the one they showed to the children. I think that’s what you were referring to when you were talking about Harvey Weinstein in your piece, but I didn’t really understand what you were saying. All the scenes that take place in the back of the train are very dark, I know that they did that because it is supposed to show the poor conditions they live in, but you can’t even see anything in the scenes, it’s far too dark to see. Another part had an inconstancy that bothered me was the translator that they were using when the first freed Nam from his prison drawer. They used it immediately when Nam is introduced but didn’t use it again until Yona is introduced. I understand if they didn’t want it to be constantly translating in the background the whole time they were talking, but a film like Contempt had a translator there the whole time and it made more sense than people talking back and forth in a different language. Something that made no sense at all was the scene where they were shooting at each other across the gap made by the train turning. It’s physically impossible for them to be shooting remotely close to each other while the train is moving, the wind blowing against it, and the change in elevation. The ending of the film really reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and there’s actually a video on youtube that goes into a deeper explanation on it (he does jump off the deep end when trying to connect the characters though.)

  • kenya Cantu

    Snowpiercer I thought was a really good intense movie of how people live on a train and how it could possibly be real and happen in the future. In the beginning it starts with the last part of the train which is the lowest class. Starts with dark images and towards the end we see bright colors. What surprised me was how the tail of the train was the dirtiest, poorest, got treated like animals, and the front was the cleanest and had everything they wanted. The fish scene was random, but there was a meaning behind it. The scene with the teacher showed how crazy everyone on the train really was. We see that there is a “King” and he knows that this is happening on the train and he is not doing anything about it. I think the director is showing us the different classes of people who live and get treated differently. I do have to say that some of the scenes were too dramatic. The actors though did a very good job acting out their part. There were sad parts in the movie like the beginning part of the movie and how we find out that the protein bars that the poor people are eating are made from insects. We see children getting taken from their parents so they can work in the engine of the train which was one of the saddest parts I thought. What I took from this movie was that even though we are different we all deserve the same rights. In today’s society if you are poor nothing is affordable. If you want to eat healthy then you have to be in the middle class or up. Overall, I liked the movie because you learn and see different perspectives.

  • Krystian Jasiak

    The Sci-fi action film Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho shows the world during a second ice age. Saying that this movie is unrealistic is an understatement. From a storyline of futuristic and end of the world scenario to rations of material and food, this movie shares a lot with the very popular film Mad Max. Nonetheless, Joon-ho makes a clear point in the segregation of social classes in the film. With the use of emotion action and drive the plot revolves around social class and power. Being limited to space and food the social classes have divided themselves into two. Rebelling back the higher power the back of the train fights off the barriers in the way literally. During the majority of the movie, the group is moving through the train disclosing clues and the storyline. After watching a few Korean films I have been noticing a pattern that Korean Filmmakers have. Many of the films include two or more social classes, giving the watcher emotion and a group to side with. Another pattern I observed is that many of the films have a split up the storyline. Manipulating the storyline was used a lot during Snowpiercer as the film directly starts on the train without a backstory as to why they are on this train. Through the movie, we learn more about the backstory but the storyline isn’t fully complete until the very end of the film. I really enjoyed how Joon-ho worked with the storyline making new clues and past events click with the present. I would love to see more of Joon-ho’s films as he made his style and ideas clearly in the movie.

  • Marvin Delos Reyes

    Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho is a film that demonstrates a lot of aspects that are a part of Korean cinema with the influence from the Hollywood genre as you mentioned. The first thing I noticed that represented Hollywood was that he casted Chris Evans as Curtis who also plays Captain America. Another example of how Bong was influenced by Hollywood is the idea of an apocalyptic event that forces the remaining survivors to find a way to get out. The CGI and set designs that Bong used are top notch. The way CGI is used to portray what the world looked like during this time is crazy. The way people from the tail section of the train are portrayed in terms of looks is important to know because it represents the divide between them and the people who were living towards the front of the train which is all part of the mise-en-scene of the film. They were treated like animals by the soldiers, an example would be them getting protein blocks made out of bugs as food.
    I would also agree with you that the best and most important scene would be when Curtis and the others handcuff Mason and go into the school area. This is a very important scene because we learn about who Mr. Wilford is. Also, Curtis ended up shooting Mason in the head after. The set design that was used was very realistic because it looked like a real classroom with the desks and play area. The difference of colors used is also noticeable once you exit the tail section of the train to move towards the more civilized sections where there were parties with lots of kronole, jacuzzis, dentists, etc. One thing that I would like to mention is the ending. The CGI was strong in this part by showing the destruction of the train from the kronole bomb and the avalanche happening. I was surprised to see that the only survivors were Yona and Timmy because I thought Curtis and Nam would at least survive but I guess telling from the other parts of the movie, no one is safe.

  • Luchinni Mandayo

    Bong-joon Ho’s Snowpiercer is an action, sci-fi thriller that has its eye-catching moments all tied with its underlying political theme.
    With social class being the main concept of this film, Bong-joon Ho does his most to make sure the two classes are complete foils of each other. As the film progresses, the Hollywood nature that you speak of in this film comes out, as the back of the train is drab and mucky to the fullest extent, with such extremes. The palette is so dark and drab which matches their life style. As Curtis and his gang move forward, the color palette of each room gets so much lighter and posh that the contrast between the two are night and day. Also, with a star studded cast such as Chris Evans and Kang-ho Song, it is so easy for the viewer to closely observe and watch each character as almost every face in this film is a familiar one.
    Also, as discussed in the article, the scene in which the children are being fed propaganda can be a very disturbing one. The repercussions of this propaganda is literally displayed by the kids themselves, as one child even describes those in the back cart as “lazy dogs who sat in their own shit”. While that may sound disgustingly harsh to the viewer, the kids do not know any better, and it is what they’ve been taught and it is all they know.

  • Tom Atkins

    This week we watched Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho. The first thing I wanted to say was by far this was the most interesting movie to me. I think it’s because it’s the most modern movie and that’s what I’m accustomed to. Right off the bat, I want to start with the main message of the movie. The movie Snowpiercer is a visual representation of social justice and environmental sustainability. Clearly, on the train, there is a major division among classes. The front is wealthy and the back is dead poor. They lived completely different lives where the rich were living the life they wanted and the poor had the bare minimum. Throughout the movie, Joon-ho’s main center point was to show the struggle the poor had to overcome. What I noticed, that you also mentioned in your review, the director decided to have very monotone colors whenever there was a shot in the back of the train and somewhat colorful in front. I guess this is a representation of their lives as the poor people’s life was lacking and boring and the riches were happy and joyful. Back to the idea I stated earlier, the movie talked about environmental sustainability. The film explains that without fighting, a scarcity of resources would happen. It believed that without fighting, the train would be even worse. It’s sad but it’s a movie that speaks on a realistic outcome or decision. In comparison to the previous movies I’ve watched, you can see how Joon-ho chose Chris Evans, one of my favorite actors, as the lead role. He is known for strong leadership roles and he is also a popular actor, which are French New Wave movies like to have. Overall, a great movie with many underlying messages and stabs at the sad truth of the contrast of life among people of different classes.

  • Rukhsar

    Honestly, when I started this movie I felt extremely uncomfortable as violence or action has never been my genre but towards the end, I had to be honest with myself and accept that this has to be the best movie we have seen in this class so far. I know I wouldn’t have watched this movie if it wasn’t for this class, but now I am tempted to watch more of these sci-fi action movies.

    This movie has many moments where I couldn’t gather my emotions. Anger being on top of the emotion list. It was until I caught myself motivating Curtis from my couch to go kill those bastards that I realized I was truly invested in this movie. Every single act, be it action or drama or just a normal conversation, it was shot beautifully with remarkable actors who did an amazing job in reflecting their pain through their eyes.

    Understanding the political aspect of this movie from your article helped me dissect this movie further. It is true that the working-class is hence the driving force behind all the classes and if they want they can surely mark their existence just like this movie displays. For me, each opening door represents an obstacle a working-class member has to overcome in order to get closer to his ultimate goal. The cost of doing that is also depicted in this movie. The cost can be getting injured, watching your loved ones die or even sacrificing your own life. The scene where Curtis could either save Edgar or get hold of Mason, he looked at the bigger picture. He was forced to sacrifice a friend so he can finally put a stop to the brutality they had been surviving for years.

    The best scene of the movie was when Minsu offers Curtis the last ever cigarette and when Curtiz tells him the real reason for why he wanted to control the engine and especially for why he had all this anger stored in him. He admits his guilt by saying “I know what people taste like and I know babies taste best.” This line and the absolutely amazing delivery by the actor forced me to pause the movie and gather my emotions. Just thinking about the conditions they have survived while there were others living a lavish life was beyond disturbing.

    A few parts of the movie which made me feel satisfied were when mason had to eat the iron bar they were given for years, while Curtis and his fellows were served sushi. This scene shows that everything is short-lived and most importantly what goes around comes around. Watching her eat the crappy Iron bar gave me a sense of comfort. Another instance where Curtis had mason under control and they put a shoe on her head exactly as she did earlier before chopping off one of the working class’s members’ arm. This further teaches the viewers that it doesn’t take long for the tables to turn against you.

    Overall, understanding the political aspect from your article and I agree with the movie presenting a Marxist slant. Many times during the movie an explicit threat or advice was being given to the viewers by the director. This movie is indeed worth the watch because it forces the audience to think outside the box. The amazing shots of the glaciers to the slow-motion shots during the fights, this movie has proved to be top-notch.

  • Katherine Meyers

    This week the class watched Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film, ‘Snowpiercer. This film takes place in 2031, seventeen years after the end of normal life on planet Earth. Due to the population’s poor handling of the environment; humanity as we know it has been subjected to living on an eternal train for the rest of their life, never to step out on its terrain once again, as they’re told ‘they will freeze to death.’ Given a new chance, we find that classes still very much exist and are placed on even harsher restrictions; they live in particular train carts- never to move up from their position.

    The film gives a harsh criticism on classist life- especially on the top percent. Through the revolution we see the struggle and sacrifices that the main character, Curtis, must make to get the engine (the head car) of the train, losing all he holds dear to him by the end of his fight (even finally sacrificing his arm). To militia, ghettos, to child labor; the film addresses the many problems our world has.

    I found the film extremely powerful, and it most definitely pulled at heartstrings through various moments. I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I took so long to watch it, until now. As an artist; I can be very nit-picky about CGI; I found their use of it to be fairly good. As our tail members worked their way through the carts; I found myself just in awe as they were when walking through the aquarium and the green house. Even surprised to see the polar bear at the very end of the film. Another film I highly enjoyed watching; and another I would highly recommend to those who haven’t seen it.

  • Zuriel Zepeda

    Snowpiercer is an action/adventure directed by Bong Joon-ho. It’s about a lower-class fighting back the higher class on a train that travels around the world. Outside of that train is a winter wasteland where the earth is within another element of the ice age and the only surviving people on earth are on the train. It’s about more inequality of class and the 99% lower class is fighting the rich 1%.
    For the best scene of the movie, I have to disagree with Mr. Smith. The scene where the teacher is teaching the kids propaganda on how Mr. Wilford (the leader of the train) is their savior and needs no criticism is really creepy. Also, it feels real that some world leaders do act upon giving themselves praise and credit even though there are so many problems within their system. For example, if anyone questions the authority, you would be heavily punished by putting the person who criticized the authority arm outside of the train through a little size hole where the temperature is way below freezing. It does build a distrust for the authority of the people of the lower class who know Mr. Wilford’s game. This later created this whole problem of revolution within the train. But at the same time, you have people who have been brainwashed from the propaganda and came out and defended Mr. Wilford.
    My favorite part has to be when Curtis, played by Chris Evans, and the lower class people revolt against the guards. The idea is the people of the lower class made a big and long tunnel to get through the sliding doors so the doors can’t close. Nevertheless, the guards have guns but they don’t have bullets. The thing is that the people revolting don’t know that until Mason, played by Tilda Swinton, tells a guard to “put that useless thing away.” Why would she say that? Does she mean what she is saying that the gun is useless? Maybe there is a possibility that the gun doesn’t have any bullets? There is only one way to test that theory and it is life-threatening but, if the theory is correct, this can start the revolution. When Curtis finally sees his chance, he comes up to the guard and pulls the trigger of the gun. Nothing happened and now everyone knows that this is the chance to fight back. What Curtis did was something that takes a lot of courage and it shows he really believes in his cause.

  • Genevieve Bean

    Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho is a fantastic movie full of action and most importantly class commentary. Bong truly used the large budget he was allowed and it shows with the CGI constructed arctic wasteland of the world and the interior design of the massive train. The first time we get to see what the world is like outside of the train, its blinding not only for the characters but also for us, coming from the dark and grimy scenes of the back of the train. The scene depicts a desolate city frozen over, and empty of all life; as the film continues we continue to see more of this world, lifeless shipyards and mountains further engraving the idea that life without the train is hopeless. This idea is enhanced during the scene in the classroom in which the train passes the bodies of seven people who attempted to escape the train and enter the world and were frozen before they could even leave the sight of the train. Though the film ends on a note of careful optimism when Yona and Timmy leave the train at the end of the film, them watching as a polar bear crests a hill and stares at the camera, showing us that life is not gone from the world and that life can recover.

    Bong Joon-ho as he does for many of his films, makes them exciting and action packed so that he can make heavy class criticism enjoyable, and it shows with this film. The back of back of the train where the low 99% class lives is grimy and dirty, wearing old ripped clothes that they may as well have been wearing since they first boarded the train. The people who live there are on top of each other and there aren’t enough beds for everyone, and in one scene a mother has used an oil drum as a crib for her baby. The difference between the front and the back of the train is staggering, even in the soldiers barracks there are enough beds for everyone as one of the characters comments. the front is pristine, spacious, and clean, they even have a dentist working on somebodies teeth while the back of the train probably doesn’t even have proper medical supplies. Another staggering difference is the food, the front of the train eats real meals, highlighted by the scene in which the insurgents from the back of the train eat sushi for the first time. When we see scenes from the front of the train, there are butcher cars lined with chicken and meat for the front end while the back we learn has been living off insect jell-o. Showing that like the world we live in now, the 1% has more than enough for everyone to live a good life, they choose to let others suffer so that they may thrive.

    All in all this was a fantastic film that was thoroughly enjoyable to watch and experience.

  • Bryanna McCarthy

    For this weeks movie we watched the movie Snowpiercer directed by Bong Joon-ho. This was our first modern day movie so I thought it was different that we were watching this movie. I really enjoyed this movie and I thought it was super cool how it all takes place on a train. Something that I thought was done very nicely was the display of colors in this film you also touch upon it in your movie review when you talk about the visual style. When the movie begins is starts off showing dark and dull colors to represent the lower class. As the movie continues you see lots of colors come in to play. You tend to see more colors and also brighter colors to represent the upper class. I like how the director did this because I feel like that also plays a role in real life. This movie is all about different classes and I feel like this movie does a really good job displaying actual things happening in the world. One of my favorite scenes was when Chris Evans is talking about turning off the water with Mason. Even in this scene they show Curtis in the dark while talking to her and she is always in the light. Just like reality. Upper class people are to me always show in a brighter light than lower class people are and I think this movie did a great job showing some raw truths of reality and the world we are living in today.

  • Edin Djencic


    Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer” (2013) is a sci-fi action movie with underlying political themes and symbolism. The movie follows the titular train which is preordained to circle the Earth in order to sustain due to what can be interpreted as the second Ice Age. The train is its own ecosystem and contains a political structure; the 99% in the back, the “tail-sectioners”, while the 1% live on the front of the train and enjoy its benefits.
    After a failed attempt to stop global warming, the world has been thrown into a new ice age. The CW-7 chemical was used to prevent global warming, but instead, it plunged the world into chaos. A figure named Wilford constructed the Snowpiercer and is considered a god-like entity who lives at the engine of the train. Curtis (Chris Evans) is a leader figure to the tail section as they plan to start a revolt against the front of the train. One of the first scenes is what appears to be a daily census check in which the guards line up the tail section and ask each row to sit down, counting their numbers. Curtis doesn’t take a seat as he is counting down the doors closing behind the guards, making a plan. His second-in-command, Edgar (Jaimie Bell), urges him to sit down and is apparently very fond of Curtis. Curtis’ role model, Gilliam (the late Sir John Vincent Hurt), explains to Curtis what kind of action he is going to undertake and that if he chooses to proceed, there is no going back. Curtis, Edgar, Tanya (Octavia Spencer) and the other tail-sectioners make an improvised ramming beam under the guard’s noses. After a second visit by the front, Claude, Wilford’s “secretary”, who takes Tanya’s son Timmy and another child whose father fights back right away and is punished by having his arm frozen on the side of the train and broken solid by a sledgehammer. This scene includes the iconic “shoe on the head” speech by lady Mason (Tilda Swinton), who is a spokesperson for Wilford. She uses the analogy of a shoe thrown by the man as a political structure that a shoe (the tail-sectioners) doesn’t belong on the head (the front) and if such an occurrence were to take place there would be consequences. This is one of the more brilliant examples Bong Joon-ho uses his movie to comment on the political structure. Not only are the themes of this movie brilliant but so is the way Joon-ho plays to his actor’s strengths. The movie is multi-lingual, although English is the dominant language. There are a couple of languages spoken and even the English accent is given some flavor by Edgar’s Irish accent. It gives the movie a more global feeling, that this event shook the whole world and now look at what it’s come to. It is a small condensed world. The audience gets a taste of this when the Curtis and the group find Namgoong Minsoo (Song Kang Ho), an engineer who knows how to open doors who has a kronole (addictive substance) addiction and his daughter Yona (Ko Asung), who is deemed to be clairvoyant, meaning she has an extreme sense of perception. This ability would come useful as the group doesn’t know what or who is behind each door they open. In an instance, right as they are about to open a door, Yona urges Curtis not to open it. Once it opens, the tail section is met with a mercenary like assemble who are wearing ski masks, protective gear, and axes. This was a very chilling scene as the background music and overall imagery provokes an instinctive fear in the audience. Lady Mason orders the troops to attack and one of the better, and more surreal, action scenes occur. Fanatic camera movement, great use of slow-motion and amazing imagery really sell this scene. Halfway through the fight, the mercs start putting on night vision goggles, and to Namgoong’s warnings, Curtis and the group try to fall back as they will fight an enemy they can’t see. This is where most of the tail section gets wiped. Another surreal moment about this scene is where the train is about to pass a particular bridge which marks a new year anniversary. It is surreal because the mercs, amidst the bloodshed, stop the fighting and cheer “Happy New Year” before continuing to fight. It shows a very different mentality of the front section that doesn’t just weird out the tail section, but the audience as well. Curtis goes after Mason who has been struck down by Grey’s (Luke Pasqualino) throwing knife and just as about she is going to escape through the door, Curtis turns around and sees Edgar being held with a knife to his neck. This was a very emotional scene and the use of slow-motion really gave it emotional weight. Curtis, unlike any movie protagonist, turns around and goes for Mason because if he didn’t the whole revolt would have been for nothing. It was a do or die situation that was masterfully presented. Edgar dies but the group gets to Mason and uses her as a hostage. With the help of Mason, the tail section proceeds to the front, encountering parts of the train they’ve never seen. The imagery and the use of color is striking. The dirty and damp cars of the tail section were mostly dominated by black, brown, and a touch of light. The front cars, on the other hand, are vibrant and each has its own theme. One of the more bizarre scenes is the school scene. The group stumbles upon a classroom full of children and a teacher who have some cult-like worship for Wilford. These kids were taught to hate and despise the lower class and are brainwashed. A man with an egg basket strolls through the carts and gives out eggs to everyone as he goes along. He gives an egg to Curtis who sees a message in it and urges everyone to get down. The school teacher grabs a gun and starts shooting, even with the kids present. Grey kills the teacher with the knife and Curtis, upon seeing Gilliam get killed on a tv screen, shoots and kills Mason. The group proceeds to the front as a cross-car shootout occurs between Curtis and an enforcer. After a few more cars, Curtis, Namgoong, and Yona arrive at the base of the engine, with Tanya and Gray dead in the cars before. Curtis up to this point was a pretty one-dimensional character up to this point with a few glimpses of his moral compass. In the speech with Namgoong Curtis spills the beans on the traumatic events that have shaped him to be a man who he is. Events such as cannibalism and murder. At 18, he murdered the infant Edgar’s mother and was about to eat Edgar until Gilliam offered his arm, prompting the tail section to leave him alone. After multiple please for Namgoong to open the door, it is revealed that Namgoong was collecting kronole, not because of his addiction but because of its flammable potential. Every year, at the bridge, he notices a plane emerging from the snow, claiming each year he gets to see more and more of the plane appear. He plans to use the kronole to blow up the door and go outside as he believes they can survive. After a small conflict between Curtis and Namgoong, Claude emerges from the door and wounds Namgoong, asking Curtis to join Wilford. This whole scene is treated like the meeting with god trope. Wilford (Ed Harris) was an entity that only existed as a name and never up until this point was his face ever revealed. It was a very surreal moment for Curtis. The use light blue and white imagery nail in the idea of a goldy presence, with the unreal looking “sacred” engine, looming and spinning in the background. After some stark revelations, including a friendship with Gilliam, Wilford introduces the idea of Curtis taking over the train, just like he wanted. Curtis falls to his knees and succumbs to the reality he is faced with in a glorious symmetric shot of him kneeled before the “sacred” engine. This shot evokes enigma and transcendence. Namgoong starts fighting of the enforcer from before and asks Yona to assemble back the kronole and get matches from Curtis. Curtis does not comply and Yona, in disgust, stops and randomly opens a hatch in the floor, revealing little Timmy stuck in between gears working on parts to keep the train moving. This is an opposite ideology of modern reality. In reality, machine will potentially replace manpower, but in the movie, manpower will replace the machine as to Wilford’s explanation the parts are going extinct. Curtis loses his arm as he props it between gears to rescue little Timmy as the boy from earlier in the film emerges and despite Curtis’ pleas, the boy gets into the engine in the last attempt to keep it working. Yona sets the fuse and Namgoong grabs her and meets up with Curtis and Timmy as they all embrace each other before the train blows up. The last scene is Yona waking up to her father’s, Curtis’, and overall everyone’s death besides her and Timmy. She grabs the little boy and ventures outside where they see a polar bear, which signifies life may sustain and that Namgoong’s theory was not false. This ending is very akin to Cormack McCarthy’s “The Road” ending.
    The movie commentates on class conflict and the dichotomy between the 99% and 1% (Smith). The contrasting imagery from each end of the train serves as the sole reason for the conflict. Even in a dystopian setting such as “Snowpiercer” humans find a way to set up a class structure that favors one end over the other. The struggle and strive to achieve equality are very prevalent in the history of mankind. The doors closing serve as a symbol of this division that exist in this world and the tail section wants to open them while the front wants them to remain closed. Bong Joon-ho’s action masterpiece serves as a nice thrill, but also a commentary on the social structure of the world.

    Work Cited

    Smith, Michael Glover. “Now Playing: Snowpiercer.” White City Cinema, 22 July 2014,

  • Petar Spasojevic

    The film that was suggested for this week was the movie Snowpiercer which was directed by Bong Joon-ho in 2013. He was South Korean which relates to the genre of movies that we are doing now with the Korean movie themes. The director did an amazing job with the lighting in every scene and how the characters interacted with each other. With the lighting it was perfect from when Timmy who was Tanya’s son had to give Curtis his protein bar because there was a bullet in there. One of the more horrific scenes to me was when they put Andrew’s arm outside of the train because he threw the shoe at Mason. This truly scared me because they set him a time limit and then took off his arm after, but he ultimately did get his revenge when he got to put his shoe back on top of her head which made me happy and my mom who was watching with me. Aside from this the lighting and slow motion scenes truly made me on the edge of my seat and kept wondering what was going to happen next. With this movie it was truly difficult to predict the next scene because I truly didn’t know what the intentions of the antagonists were. When all this comes together with the lighting, slow motion scenes, and the quiet scenes it all plays a really amazing role together and to the concept of the film.
    The one character I want to truly focus on is Curtis. He was one of my favorite characters and the scenes that really struck me was when he was talking to Namgoong at the last gate and he shared his story about Edgar and this truly was an emotional scene. Both actors did an amazing job. Curtis to me was a vital character because of how he was able to lead everyone and take charge as a leader. When he figured out there were no bullets in the guns that was one of my favorite parts because he got to help all those individuals move out of that last gate in the train for the first time in a long time. They ultimately capture Mason and he kills her. I disliked her a lot because especially after she brought those eggs for the individuals and then there were guns under them. This truly made me upset because they were all so close to espcaping together, but then this happened. I also loved when Curtis made her eat the protein bar this was truly an amazing thing to see. One of the quotes that you stated was, “The best scene of all takes place in a train compartment that functions as an elementary school where children are being force-fed propaganda about Wilford.” I agree with this, but for me the best scene was when they all fought together against those bad guys with the weapons. This scene was my favorite because of the lighting and the slow motion scenes of them all fighting and Curtis going against everyone. This was when Edgar died and both myself and my mom were very upset cause he was one of our favorite characters. All in all this scene was very very well directed and all the characters did an amazing job of playing their role.
    To conclude, I truly wanted to state that when i found out what they were truly eating with the insects and the more up you go in gates you realize how bad the individuals who were captured truly had it. It made me so upset of what all the other people had and they had to eat so poorly. Moving on I wanted to say that I give this movie a 7.5/10 simply because of the ending. It left me so confused and with so many questions. If the ending were better I would give this movie a 9.5 or even a 10. Nonetheless it was another amazing movie and an amazing movie in the Korean genre of movies we have been seeing lately.

  • Jodino Beaubrun

    Snowpiercer is so far one of my favorite movies that we have viewed in class. Bong-joon Ho did a great job making this movie have a good amount of action and have a real feel to it. Just like the article stated, it’s a 99% versus the 1% and we see how even though they are weak and out weaponed, they have a leader who is willing to save everyone. I also like how he really touched on the propaganda, and how they would manipulate kids at such a young age to believe that the ghettoized working class are the bad people. But in reality they are the ones that are the most important people in that train. They are also the most powerful and it is shown as they push forward in the train. I also like the ending, because it shows how parents sacrifice everything for their kids to have a better future. Even though this movie is a fictional film it had a lot of real life situations that we can relate to. For me my parents would sacrifice anything to make sure I succeed. Also the polar bear at the ending is a clear sign of the world starting to get better. This was a good thing to add because it gave a pretty happy ending, stating that going to the front of the train was worth it, like everything that went on was worth the adventure, because now the kids are the future and they will progress. Last thing I want to mention is the fact that Bong-joon Ho really touches on social class in this film and it really relates to the Korean new wave. Because it touches on something that happens not only in Korea but in every country.

  • Taha

    Snowpiecer was a film in which the last remaining human population are in a revolving train due to the outside world being inhabitable. In the reading, it quoted “that art and entertainment need not be seen as mutually exclusive concepts.” This was a perfect summary to this movie, as it’s visuals seemed like it was something out of Transformers, but had a very direct political standpoint.
    The story starts off by showing poor people in the back of the train being contained. We later find out that they had to eat each other due to lack of food. Even when they were given “steak”, it was actually bugs mushed up together. So we can see the unfair living conditions that they were living in. There was also a drug called kranole, which the man who designed the train was “addicted” to when actually, he was saving it to use as an explosive. The tail end people were able to outsmart the guards by realizing they had no bullets, which resulted in a full out attack to get to the front. They were successful, but not without multiple casualties.
    One scene that stuck out to me was when they went to the classroom with teachers and children, they were sticking propaganda in the kids’ heads and maybe was a symbolizing how the government feeds lies into our head and we usually believe without questioning. Mr.Wilford was the individual who runs the engine and says to Curtis why there was such an imbalance of power and status. He explained that this was how the world runs, and without problems and hardships somewhere, there would be no world. A quite interesting take, as we never really had a time in our existence in which a group, or some groups of people weren’t suffering.

  • Ross Vazquez

    I think you are definitely right about Snowpiercer being an anti-Hollywood Hollywood movie. The anti-capitalist message here is quite sly, and with the budget he had, Bong definitely went all in with it, from the colorful indoctrination of the children in the schoolroom scene to Curtis’ realization of the protein bar ingredients (probably the most freaked out he was in the whole movie prior to reaching the front of the train). There were for sure some “Hollywood”-style silly parts in the movie, like the one officer’s throw-away line before his death about 52 minutes in, as well as the part where Franco and Curtis exchange fire while the train goes through a loop (about an hour and 17 minutes in). However, Bong Joon-Ho does include softer, almost meditative scenes punctuating the violent action set-pieces. For instance when Namgoong watches the snowflake pass through the bullet-hole in the window, as well as Curtis’ conversation with Namgoong prior to entering Wilford’s compartment. Going back to the production design (as well as Hurt’s Gilliam being a reference to Brazil) it reminded me of another science fiction movie, from France (Snowpiercer also being coincidentally based off a French graphic novel) in 2006, called Renaissance. Renaissance, a dystopian action-drama, also had anti-capitalist undertones (the bad guys are oligarchs quite literally seeking out immortality). The grimy streets (and sewers) of future Paris featured in Renaissance, somewhat resemble the industrial aesthetic of the train’s rear, and are dominated by shadow, while the upper-class apartments and office buildings glow white and are only underlined by shadow, just like how the front of the train has the growling engine hidden underneath it’s colorful plating. I think Bong Joon-Ho has made Snowpiercer much more like a classic Hollywood movie in the sense that he has artfully fused enthralling entertainment with subtle messages and morals. I also loved the final shot of the polar bear, it reminded me a little bit of the final shot of Memories Of Murder, since both Kang-Ho Song (as Detective Park) and the polar bear look directly at the viewer, almost as if pondering the audience in some way, or asking the audience to ponder back

  • Vasco S

    Snowpiercer is perhaps my least favorite Bong Joon-Ho project. But even then, the film is incredibly entertaining and memorable, not to mention a very literal exploration of class-warfare, which is where the Marxist element comes in. Before I’d ever even seen the film I was biased—it seemed lesser, for some reason, than all his other films. Maybe it was the commercial aspect of it, the sort of middle-of-the-road appeal. A big budget anti-capitalist film starring Captain America seems like an oxymoron. It is ironic at the very least. Upon watching it a second time, however, it’s social message, it feels like to me, is compounded by the “largeness” of the project in a tongue of cheek kind of way.

    Stylistically, I really found nothing incredibly outstanding, although the editing, cinematography and acting is certainly superior to your average post-apocalyptic action film. In particular, Tilda Swinton’s (who is a treasure to cinema) performance was incredibly enjoyable.

    I don’t know… this one just did not rouse any big revelation or positive emotion for me. It just didn’t do it for me.

  • jmartyniouk

    Snowpiercer is basically a crazy train going off the rails. This film is basically a class warfare on a train between the rich and the dirt poor. This is visually one of the best films Bong Jun Ho has ever made. The CGI is amazing as the frozen landscapes are very pretty and the color grading of this movie is phenomenal as it highlights the different train cars from the tail end of the train to the engine in the front.
    The set designs in this movie are gorgeous too. Each train car has a different color and lighting design to make the train car part and it’s like each train car is a whole different world and I wanted to explore all the worlds. My favourite scene in Snowpiercer has got to be the classroom scene and here’s a quote from Michael Smith’s article to show why I love this scene so much: “The best scene of all takes place in a train compartment that functions as an elementary school where children are being force-fed propaganda about Wilford (Ed Harris), the mysterious great white father who invented the train and lives in its engine. While the film ultimately belongs to Tilda Swinton — hilarious as Mason, Wilford’s second-in-command and a cartoonish villain buried beneath almost as much prosthetics and make-up as she wore in The Grand Budapest Hotel — she is herself momentarily upstaged in this scene; the talented young Canadian actress Alison Pill amazes as a schoolteacher leading the children through maniacally gleeful sing-alongs (“What happens if the engine stops? / We all freeze and die!”)”. What Smith is saying is that this scene is a scary look at the future at how education could easily brainwash little children and adults like Mason into saying horrible things about other people. The moment I saw the bullet in the egg I knew something would happen and when the teacher pulled the gun and started shooting Curtis and his allies I was on the edge of my seat and that scene shook me to the core. The other scene that shocked me was the frozen arm scene that scene was shown to show how far that rich would go to put people in order after they commit a crime by literally smashing a frozen arm off to pieces.
    This film perfectly shows the divide between the poor and the rich as the rich are the head and the poor are the shoe and the dirt between the rich’s feet. Another scene that I found cool was the nightvision massive brawl while the train was going through a tunnel. That was such a cool technique and the way they used the darkness to their advantage and then using torches to help them fight was so freaking cool.
    The ending of this film to me felt very hopeful as even though Curtis and many people on the train died Yona and Tim survived and walk into the frozen tundra to start a new life and bring humanity back from extinction. It’s such a gorgeous scene as it shows life goes on as a polar bear is still alive showing that the ice age is over and a new age of humanity has begun. That’s why Bong Jun Ho’s Snowpiercer is a masterpiece and helped start the uprising of foreign films to mainstream audiences.

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