REVIEW: Snowpiercer (2013)

Captain America trades in his shield to live on a long train in a snowy, post-apocalyptic world.

By Sarah Edge
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Original Title:설국열차
Year: 2013
Country: Korea, US, France
Language: English, Korean
Genres: Science Fiction, Action, Thriller
Director: Bong Joon-ho


snowpiercerDue to a global warming experiment gone terribly wrong, the world has completely frozen over. The only survivors are those on board the illustrious Snowpiercer train – a train capable of life-sustaining temperatures with an engine that keeps it in constant motion.

Over the years a class system has evolved on the train. Those in the front cars enjoy a wealthy life full of amenities and luxuries, while the train’s back car inhabitants live in dimly lit bunk stacks with stale food and little else to do except work.

Curtis (Chris Evans of Captain America fame) hatches a plan with other back car inhabitants to find a way to the front, take control of the engine and change their fate. To carry out their plan, they have to enlist the help of Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho), a man who knows the train and its cars.

The belief that the conductor and the engine are sacred and that everything must remain in its place haunts the mission. Curtis must come face to face with the grim reality that after many years, these beliefs have become deeply entrenched in the train’s inhabitants.

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The poor people on the back of the train are ready to rebel against their rich oppressors.

Bong Joon-ho uses the train setting with incredible flexibility. Rather than bending to rules, he dove straight into a highly prismatic world with no strings attached.

As our protagonists cross train cars to their destination, the setting becomes increasingly more modern and luxurious. The front end of the train and the back end of the train are polar opposites. This is implied early on in the first twenty minutes.

Things get stranger and more detached from reality as time goes on. Each car carries with it its own unique plot points. Like the characters, we trudge forward blindly – unaware of what lurks ahead.


Chris Evans trades his shield to play Curtis, a freedom fighter on the Snowpiercer train.

The film doesn’t fluff anything. It takes no precautions and gives no pity. From the very start to the very end, nothing is sugarcoated. The scenes might be extremely disturbing but they only add to the story. It’s a relief the director went this route and didn’t water anything down. It’s the moments that are hard to watch that are also gifted with the incredible ability to make us empathize.

The great thing about the story is that it fulfilled what it needed to and left the unanswered “why”s and “how”s to the viewer’s imagination. Within the scope of Snowpiercer’s universe, lots of ideas can be generated and exchanged and completely make sense. You will likely end up in a diner with your friends discussing every plot element, every nook and cranny.


It’s time for the crazy action scenes in the film.

Why is this? The plot is very inventive but at its core it has something deeper to address and it wisely does not tie up all the loose ends. This makes for a lot of open discussion about how things occurred or why such things happened.

Watch this film…

…if you’re prepared to be fully absorbed into a world that unhinges reality right from underneath your feet.

About the Author

Sarah Edge

  • Theyn Smith

    True. I mean why would they build a train instead of like living under ground or building a durable shelter or something. I guess at the end of the day it’s kind of like them building Jeagers to fight the Kaijus, we just need to be quiet and take it as it is.