One of the most enjoyable things about reviewing movies on Blu-Ray is the exposure to many films that would otherwise go unseen by myself, and also many readers. When Roadshow offered Snowpiercer for review I admittedly had never heard of the film. After a little research I discovered the director to be Joon-ho Bong, the director of the very entertaining Korean film, The Host. With that news, it didn't take me long to accept the offer to review Snowpiercer.
It's been 18 years since we froze the earth. The few remaining humans live on the Snowpiercer, a train on an infinite loop around the globe. For those at the front, it’s a lavish paradise of drugs and sushi in the lap of luxury; for those trapped in the tail section, life is short and cruel.
But change is in the air. Curtis (Chris Evans), desperate to escape the tail of the train, plans an uprising, aided by his mentor Gilliam (John Hurt). What begins as an isolated riot explodes into a mass revolution, an all-or-nothing push to the front of the train, and a war for humanity’s future. Who will live and who will die? How far can they go? Is there hope beyond the frozen wastes?
So going into this film all I knew about was the Korean director, and the star being Chris Evans (yes, Captain America himself), but it's not long before Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Tilda Swinton also make an appearance, the latter who's character of Minister Mason is eccentric and a highlight of the film. In fact, this her performance alone is a reason to seek out this new Blu-Ray release, she's that good.
If you think about it, a film about a group of people moving through a train doesn't sound that exciting, but it is. Each carriage has the potential to surprise, bewilder, and amaze - one minute you're in the third class where people struggle to survive, the next you're walking through a classroom with young children, then a nightclub and of course there's an engine room too. Each new area has the potential for new friends, or foes.
While much of the film is fairly tame, and indeed the first 30 minutes or so are pretty slow paced, so much so you may question why this review is so highly praised. When the action heats up this becomes an engrossing film with some very violent moments - people die, blood splatters and there is little remorse for the actions, but it's never beyond what one would expect from people in such dire circumstances. If anything it would have been nice to have a little more gore - the opening of the film has a mans arm being frozen, and then shattered, but it cuts away right at that point which could have been a super-cool, albeit uber violent, visual.
Fortunately as the film picks up pace, so the video transfer improves as we move to lighter and brighter carriages - some with natural light through windows that are opened. People in second and certainly first class have more luxurious living environments and clothing and the transfer starts to shine when it moves into these areas.
The disc also contains an Audio Description Track for the Vision Impaired which is encoded at a pretty poor Dolby Digital 2.0 track at 224kbps. Also included is a Descriptive Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which are accurate to the dialogue and sounds in the film.
The Birth of Snowpiercer (15:09/HD): While EPK styled this is a decent look at the making of this film with plenty of on-set footage.
Characters (13:08/HD): This is another decent piece which details the characters in the film including the actors and showing plenty of on-set footage. Again, it's a little EPKish and details the story too much, but is worth a look.
Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer (4:40/HD): Too EPKish for my liking with a lot of clips from the film itself, but it's nice to hear from two of the stars of the film. Not as much here as there should be given their importance in the film, and their status as actors, but it's worth a look.
Extended Animated Clip (4:32/HD): This is a pretty neat animated clip which details more of the backstory to Snowpiercer and shows off the planet before, during and after the cataclysmic event. It's pretty neat an worth checking out.
Transperceneige: From The Blank Page To The Black Screen (54:26/HD): Running for almost an hour this is a wonderfully detailed look at the comic book and how that was translated to the big screen. While considerable portions of this documentary are in French (the comic is French after all!), with English Subtitles, making it a bit of a journey to get through it really is a fantastic look at history of the story in the comic book form, translating it for film, the production and test screenings. It's a wonderfully detailed look at the creative minds behind this film and well worth checking out.
Review By: Dave Warner