posted by Joe Anaya on July 28th, 2014

Science fiction movies often fall into visual effects heavy wide shots with sparse set designs to depict the future with very little to say. And often they say nothing at a break-neck pace. Once in awhile, a film comes along that refreshes the genre and comes at it from a different perspective. Snowpiercer is just that kind of movie.

Snowpiercer is set in the not-to-distant future, when humans’ attempt to reverse the effects of global warming they accidentally set off a second ice-age that freezes everyone and everything that isn’t on a circumnavigating train.

The story begins on the verge of a revolt. The people are separated by train cars and by class. The rich are in the front cars and the poor are stuck in the back cars overcrowded and underfed.

After 14 years on the back of the train, the steerage has had enough. The leaders know they must get to the front of the car to improve their lives, and they must fight from car to car until they reach the perpetual motion engine at the front of the train.

The world created by director and co-writer Joon-ho Bong is dark and oppressive in the back of the train but bright and luxurious in the front, giving the film a very rich arch. And even though the sets are simple (I mean come on it’s a series of box cars and dining cars, etc.), they are effective in story and style.

The violence is plenty, but while intense, it mostly happens off screen, mostly. It is deserving of its R rating. Chris Evans, John Hurt and Jamie Bell give solid performances.

The best part about Snowpiercer is the concept. It’s a simple low-tech story. But most importantly, in the best tradition of sci-fi, it has a message about the current world, the nature of society and the human condition.

Unfortunately, if you want to see it in a theater, it’s on a platformed release, meaning it’s not in a million screens for two weekends. So you’ll have to search a little to find it. You can watch it at home online, but it’s worth the effort.

File Under Jack of all Trades