I actually saw Snowpiercer over the summer in one of the 2 theaters in the area where it was actually playing. The story centers around Chris Evans, who plays Curtis, the leader of a quasi-Hunger Games rebellion bent on taking out the class system that has arisen in their society. This was all brought about by a plan to stop climate change through pumping coolants into the atmosphere. The plan backfired, and sent the world into a new ice age, leaving all that is left of humanity forever circling the earth on a massive never stopping train.
The train is divided by class, the wealthy belong to the front, where the poor reside in the back. This system has been in place for almost 20 years, and the passengers of the back finally step up to put an end to it, by pushing their way through the train, car by car, to get to the front and overthrow the established order.
As far as Dystopian Sci-Fi goes, this all seems pretty basic, but it’s truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Snowpiercer’s elegance is in it’s simplicity, what it lacks in intricate plot it makes up for in world building and characters. The world of the train is so beautifully weird and unique, with the variations in each car and how we see the culture change the further up the train you move, and how that world is filled with a wealth of memorable and weird characters. Most notably Tilda Swinton, who was easily giving one of the best and most hilarious performances of her career. The rest of the cast are all great as well, but it’s Tilda Swinton and Korean actor Kang-Ho Song who absolutely steal the show.
The weirdness of some of it’s characters is only heightened by the spectacle of it’s fight scenes, as well as the gorgeous set design. The fight scenes are tense and tight, and are only elevated by the unique settings in which they take place.
It’s really great that we get to watch this movie from the perspective of a cli-fi class. I love it because Snowpiercer is such a perfect example of how weird and different you can get with something like cli-fi, similarly to something like The Windup Girl, where the story could not exist without the cli-fi setting, but it’s more of a cherry on top rather than taking up the whole plate (like, arguably, Forty Signs of Rain).
As Ted Alverez stated in his article on the film for Grist.org, “Snowpierecer is a cli-fi film with no science in it, and we need more films like it.” He’s entirely correct. Because while it is very important to view cli-fi in a grounded realistic context, it’s also just as important to place it in a more accessible fictional context as well. “Climate change is merely the Big Bad that pushed us into a terrible struggle, like Russians in the ’80s or nuclear weapons in the ’50s (also, Russians in the ’50s).”
Using Climate Change as a concept alone without trying desperately to explain it creates an inherent fear with regards to it. It’s so easy to get bogged down with facts and figures and Snowpiercer recognizes that and that the greatest fear comes from the unknown and one of the only ways to increase awareness and inspire a reaction is to create fear through ambiguity.
All in all, Snowpiercer is a great ride that I highly recommend getting on at the next stop.