The cold never bothered Chris Evans anyway.
It’s almost a certainty that Snowpiercer will be the only action film released in cinemas in 2014 in which the plot is abruptly paused to allow for the characters to sit down and share sushi over lunch. There’s nothing quite like a film in which the unexpected prevails, but in Snowpiercer the unexpected prevails particularly triumphantly.
Set in a grim future in which a climate change experiment gone awry has thrust the world into a bitter ice age, the film follows the meagre group of survivors who were lucky enough to gain admittance on the Snowpiercer, a locomotive that travels the world continuously, with no set destination. A distinct set of class systems have emerged in the train that favour the wealthy to an inexcusable degree. The further toward the engine at the front you are, the more luxurious your lifestyle is. Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) has the job of maintaining social order amongst the carriages, and expect the inhabitants of the tail end of the train to blindly follow her sense of order. “Know your place. Keep your place.”
Curtis (Chris Evans) is burdened with the unwanted leadership of the tail section, a result of his natural charisma and desire to help. Mentored by Gilliam (John Hurt), Curtis hatches a plan to push forward to the front of the train and capture the engine room from it’s enigmatic architect, Wilford (Ed Harris), correctly surmising, “You control the engine, you control the world.”
The casting of Chris Evans is monumental to the success of the film. He seems the sort of actor who can convey dignity amongst the most ridiculous of settings. As Captain America, Evans managed to offer an intrinsically obsolete character consequence in a modern setting. His charisma here is critical, considering the basic premise and almost everything that happens in Snowpiercer is otherwise absolutely deranged.
Snowpiercer thankfully labours under no pretensions that the premise is particularly inventive, a misstep of many contemporary science fiction films. It prospers, rather, thanks to director Joon-Ho Bong’s riveting sense of forward momentum and almost complete disregard for expectations. There are films that embrace weird for the sake of weird, but ultimately collapse under their own lack of cohesion. There may be no purpose to a lot of what Snowpiercer offers, but Bong structures it with such union it all seems like everything is where it’s supposed to be.
There are elements of nuance to the narrative, particularly regarding global warming and social structures, but nothing that is ever established as a real agenda. Snowpiercer may be about absolutely nothing. It’s a baffling film, but is perhaps successful because of it. Like the train, the film is constantly and relentlessly pushing forward with no real direction or plan. It might never be exactly clear what it is you like about Snowpiercer, but chances are you’ll like it a lot.