Considering how many American and English stars are showcased in Bong Joon-ho’s new sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer, it’s been strange and even somewhat bracing to be on the outside looking in at the South Korean film’s marketing campaign. Although The Weinstein Company currently owns the North American distribution rights, there’s been no word yet as to when Snowpiercer will be released in the US, and the numerous making-of featurettes that have been released have included substantial interviews with the director and other South Korean crew and cast, with no English subtitles to help translate them.
Hopefully the announcement of a US release won’t be too far away, because every new bit of footage shown from Snowpiercer makes it look all the more interesting. Bong’s previous works include the fantastic monster movie The Host, the star of which (Song Kang-ho) also has a role in Snowpiercer as a security expert, so this return to the science fiction genre is more than welcome.
A new trailer for Snowpiercer has been unveiled ahead of the film’s domestic August release, and focuses on the rebellion led by Curtis (Chris Evans) with a voiceover from Gilliam (John Hurt), the elderly advisor of the “freeloader” section of the enormous, ever-moving train. Snowpiercer is set in a dystopian future where the world has been hit with a brutal ice age and the surviving dregs of humanity are forced to stay in constant motion in order to survive, with a fiercely strict leader, Wilson (Tilda Swinton), keeping everyone in their proper place.
If the trailers haven’t yet been enough to put Snowpiercer on your list of films to watch, then perhaps the early reviews will push it over the edge. Critics from Variety and Twitch have both written rave reviews for Snowpiercer, praising the technical achievements and the depth of its storytelling:
Twitch (Pierce Conran):
“Bong Joon-ho has created with Snowpiercer the most accomplished overseas work of any Korean filmmaker to-date. While it remains to be seen whether or not mainstream western audiences will embrace Bong’s dark and ferocious genre film, in many ways he’s already beaten Hollywood at its own game. A tour de force of science fiction, Snowpiercer is a singular and breathtaking cinematic experience.”
Variety (Scott Foundas):
“Bong gets away with much that he almost surely would have had to curtail if working at an American studio… By the end, the film reveals itself as a surprisingly thoughtful contemplation of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, and whether mankind is worth trying to save at all. Somber stuff, to be sure, but not without flashes of hope, and a steady infusion of Bong’s dark, quirky humor.”
Snowpiercer is literally and unabashedly a film about class warfare, with the dirty, downtrodden masses at the back of the train possessing a building rage towards Wilford (Ed Harris), the industrialist who owns the train, and eventually exploding into a rebellion where they attempt to seize control of the forward cars. Any film with a political message, however abstract it might be, runs the risk of being to overt or preachy and alienating some of its audience. While THR praises Snowpiercer in some aspects, this review suggests that some of the central themes and messages were a bit too forthright:
THR (Clarence Tsui):
“Bong’s vivid depictions — aided by Ondrej Nekvasil’s production design, Hong Kyung-pyo’s cinematography and Steve M. Choe’s editing — are exceptional, adding to a film that is as much about philosophical reflections of an age of social and moral collapse as it is about blockbuster-friendly, CGI-enhanced sequences…
“As it stands, Snowpiercer is still an intellectually and artistically superior vehicle to many of the end-of-days futuristic action thrillers out there. But while the references to real-life atrocities should certainly resonate with international audiences, the overt ways in which Bong hammers his points home actually make the film less powerful than the more layered political allegories of his previous films like Memories of Murder and The Host.”
The overall tone of the reviews so far is extremely promising, and the cast that Bong pieced together for Snowpiercer will no doubt be a strong draw for audiences. Tell us what you think of this latest trailer, and what you’re hoping that Snowpiercer will deliver, in the comments.
Snowpiercer is out in South Korean theaters on August 1, 2013, but doesn’t yet have a US release date.