Snowpiercer (2 stars)


Leaden and confused all-star movie of interest only to connoisseurs of expensively botched sci-fi money-pits

Much anticipated, Joon-ho Bong’s futuristic train epic, expensively adapted from a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige, finally arrives at UK platforms way behind schedule and in a somewhat disheveled state. The high-powered concept for Snowpierecer created considerable internet buzz until the resultant train-crash was screened last year, leading Harvey Weinstein to grow cold on the material, Grace of Monaco-style, and offer a somewhat shame-faced release pattern worldwide.

Things start off brightly enough, considering the dark, dystopian theme. With little of his Captain America charisma, Chris Evans plays Curtis, an aspiring revolutionary sulking underneath a woolly hat and a woollier beard alongside pal Edgar (Jamie Bell) in the downtrodden back carriage of the Snowpiercer train, endlessly circling the snowbound wreckage of a world ruined by global warming experiments. Each carriage represents different strata of an increasingly affluent society, although the man/god/driver/of the train's front carriage is unknown to all. Curtis and Edgar resolve to start a fight-back, with repressor Mason (Tilda Swinton) their chief adversary.

Swinton's awful performance is the first indication that Snowpiercer is going off the rails. Coaxed into a delivery that resembles Su Pollard imitating Margaret Thatcher in the sing-song delivery of Alan Bennett, Swinton's intonations demonstrate that while her director can organise impressive cutaways of screeching brakes and snow-covered bridges, Joon-ho Bong has a tin ear for characterisation or dialogue. The overacting runs through the whole cast, with the exception of Evans, who is barely noticeably in the lead role. The action scenes are proficient, but they're also illogical, and the revelation of the train's ruler proves to be something of a damp squib, followed by an ending that makes nonsense of the film's central premise.

Where the same director’s The Host was brash and breezy in its revision of genre clichés, Snowpiercer is leaden and confused, an all-star disaster of a movie, of interest only to connoisseurs of expensively botched sci-fi money-pits.

Screening at Cineworld, Edinburgh, Sat 22 & Sat 28 Jun, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Snowpiercer - trailer (2013)


  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • South Korea / US / France
  • 2h 5min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Joon-ho Bong
  • Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton

In a future where global warming has destroyed most life on Earth, the only survivors are those who inhabit the Snowpiercer - a train that is run by a perpetual-motion engine. A rebellion is brewing, though, between the elite controlling the front and the poor suffering in the back.