Grade: A-

Directed by Joon-ho Bong
Starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer

Science is awesome, except when a failed climate-change experiment basically wipes out the entire world population, save a train full of people who have resorted to narrowing down the world's class system by train car. Snowpiercer, the name of this world-traveling train, is the singular setting for this film's abundantly ambitious plot. With stellar images and clever performances, this is the summer blockbuster everyone should be talking about.

Chris Evans stars as Curtis, a tough everyman who becomes the lower class leader during a revolt against the elites who reside in the front of the train. As Curtis and his followers tackle each train car, their numbers decrease as the underlying fight for truth and survival increases. The lower class have been living in shambles for a good number of years while the upperclass has been enjoying life's pleasures. Each site of new indulgences only sparks a stronger fire in the lowerclass as they continue to push forward.

Snowpiercer comes from South Korean director Joon-ho Bong, most famous for South Korean hits Mother and The Host. He definitely has a unique vision, but can only take part of the credit. The film is solely based on the French graphic novel Le Transpercenegie, and it's very clear that some of the film's better imagery comes from a graphic novel background. There are clever sci-fi details mixed in with the realistic settings and character systems, serving almost as a throwback to other post-apocalypse thrillers like Children of Men. While the surroundings are dirty and aged, the technology present and the past/present societal changes keep everything very familiar and uncomfortable, all at the same time. The protein bars alone are such a weird concept, much less the idea of being trapped in a train car for a seemingly infinite amount of time.

Evans stands out as a true leading man, in case his turns in the Captain America series weren't proof enough. Octavia Spencer works off of her Oscar win with a honed in performance. Ed Harris and Jamie Bell make decent appearances. It's Tilda Swinton, though, in an almost unrecognizable get-up, who steals the show. Much like her work earlier this year in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Swinton doesn't seem to care if you recognize her at all. She's more focused on you seeing every side of the character she's portraying. The makeup, hair, and costumes definitely help in selling her evil and conniving grin, but her panache with the spoken word is something we rarely get the joy of seeing, especially in an action film.

The effects are good enough to take you completely in. It would be interesting to see what a bigger studio could have done, but I think we would have had to give up some of the small idiosyncracies that really make Snowpiercer what it is. It's an independent film disguised as a summer blockbuster.

If you're looking for action, it's here. If you're looking for special effects, check here. If you're looking for a smart concept, yup. If you're looking for great performances, you bet. If you're looking for a good movie worth your time, trust me, you won't regret it.

Rating: R
Runtime: 126 minutes

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