I must admit, before I walked into the Mercury Cinema, I had already seen the film that was showing that night. In fact, it’s one of my favourite films, and has been for a few years. Snowpiercer was released in 2014 to a limited audience in America and subsequently Australia (due to a belligerent Harvey Weinstein), but it is now on Netflix. It hosts an all-star cast, not the least of them John Hurt, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell, and is an English-language Korean film.
The film utilises a well-worn concept in the 21st century – humanity accidentally destroys the Earth and the majority of itself, and the plot follows the few who survived, on a self-sustaining train that travels the planet and never stops.
Those who live on the train have formed a plutocratic society, the rich living in the first few carriages, dining on sushi, getting high and partying it up, while those at the foot of the train are subjugated to harsh laws, fed a pittance, and barely survive. Enter the film’s protagonist, Curtis, who wants to save his people and stage a rebellion. Chris Evans is almost unrecognisable as Curtis with his dark beard and a beanie, just about as far from Captain America as he could be, and it is one of his best roles to date.
Though with a simple, straightforward plot, Snowpiercer is dark, gritty, and its true accomplishment comes from its astoundingly harsh critique of the human race. The film’s dystopian future strikes close to home, and shows the god complex humanity exhibits over many different facets of our existence. Humans think they can solve global warming, not by using renewable energies or ceasing to emit greenhouse gases, but by dropping a chemical in the atmosphere to lower the Earth’s temperature. Instead they cause an instant global Ice Age and kill almost every living thing. The god complex is also exhibited by the creator of the train, who many refer to as ‘divine’. When Curtis finally reaches him, he finds a man half-mad and believing his own superiority, his own righteousness; so much so that he orchestrated the entire rebellion just to get Curtis to succeed him as the caretaker of the engine. Even Curtis has his own god complex, his own righteous belief that his rebellion, though not the first, deserves to be carried out and succeed.
The film also examines the very nature of humankind, and what we are willing to do to survive. The caretaker, for instance, uses children to replace parts of the engine that wear and break over time. The First Class citizens are happy to starve and murder the “Tail Sectioners” if it means they can party for one more night. Curtis is also not exempt from the flawed desire for survival, and he explains at the end of the film what he was willing to do when the food ran out when they first got on the train. It is this monologue that exemplifies why I feel Evans’ performance is so memorable, and is what makes Snowpiercer truly stand out from all the other dystopian futures embodied in pop culture.
Not only is Snowpiercer a study in humanity, but it is presented in such a realistic way that one can’t help but to wonder: Do we really deserve to survive on this Earth?
Words by Amelia Hughes.
Thanks to Mercury Cinema.