Directed By: Bong Joon-ho

Starring: Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris

For a guy who supposedly would like to retire from acting in a few years, Chris Evans of Captain America fame seems to be a consistent presence at the box office.  He reprised his role as the elder Avenger in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  He's got two other comedies on the horizon later in the year in A Many Splintered Thing and 1:30 Train.  Evans even has a South Korean sci-fi action film that's made its way across the Pacific this month in the 2013 flick Snowpiercer.  He may want to retire and step behind the camera, but that may not be such a great idea given the string of high-quality films he's been headlining as of late.  Snowpiercer is no exception.

Nearly eighteen years ago, mankind's irresponsible stewardship of the precious planet we call Earth catches up with us.  When we attempt to counteract climate change and tip our delicate ecosystem back into balance, things go terribly awry, and a new ice age ensues.  All life on the planet is destroyed, save for a small few.  A pioneer in the railroad industry named Wilford (Ed Harris) constructs a train capable of traveling around the globe, covering all seven continents in a year's time.  Any surviving life resides on this train that's come to be known as Snowpiercer.

As in any society, all men are not treated as equal on the train.  There are those who reside in the front with a comfortable lifestyle under the dire circumstances — the wealthy and connected.  Conversely, there are those who reside at the tail of Snowpiercer in squalor.  To achieve balance, Wilford and Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) organize the passengers on the principle that everyone has a preordained position.  From their perspective, there must be a head and a shoe.  The folks in the tail don't agree with this and are ready to air their grievances.  To do so, they want to take control of the sacred engine, which has been running for nearly 18 years.  Taking control of the engine is tantamount to taking control of the train.  Though a man by the name of Gilliam (John Hurt) has led the people of the tail for years now, he's too old to lead the charge against the front.  A man by the name of Curtis Everett (Evans) is leading them, and he's ready to open some gates and traverse the train.

I have always been a proponent of innovative filmmaking.  Though Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer is an adaptation of a French graphic novel, I can't argue with the fact that this is one of the most creative science fiction films I've seen in years.  The only other recent sci-fi flick that boasts a similar level of creativity is Looper.  Bong's Snowpiercer is an endlessly inventive cross between The Raid movies and The Matrix trilogy.  With a winning combination of bold direction, unpredictable writing, and terrific acting, Snowpiercer may just be the best sci-fi film of 2014.

Thanks to Bong, Snowpiercer is a gritty and glorious cinematic treat in more ways than one.  The grim vision of the tail of the train is marked by dark, grainy cinematography, dingy, dirty characters thanks to some impressive make-up, and set design reminiscent of District 12 in The Hunger Games (except confined to a train).  The cold panoramic shots of the world on ice harken back to the 2004 disaster film The Day After Tomorrow.  Beyond just creating this visual feast, however, Bong immerses us in this post-apocalyptic world in the tensest, bloodiest of ways.  With any revolt, there's conflict, and Bong's revolt is one brutal affair.  His vicious action sequences are a trademark of this dark, cold world he’s crafted.  Their sheer intensity, strong choreography, and unique settings are similar to that of The Raid: Redemption.  All in all, Bong crafts one potent sci-fi flick.

Translating the source material to the big screen, Bong and his fellow screenwriter Kelly Masterson touch upon many themes.  There are three that come to mind.  First and foremost, socioeconomic inequality pervades the entire film.  After all, it's a war of the haves and have-nots.  Bong and Masterson use this theme to powerful effect in their screenplay.  Second, climate change lingers throughout the movie.  Each and every time they address the world outside Snowpiercer, Bong and Masterson remind us of the fact that the world is a cold, cold place thanks to us.  Finally, we have the post-apocalyptic theme.  Akin to The Matrix, Snowpiercer offers a limited reality on this ruined planet.  Because the residents of Snowpiercer know they can't go out into the great big icy world, however, being passengers on a never-ending train ride may just be worse than being plugged into the matrix.

The cast is just phenomenal.  We have some great protagonists and antagonists.  As our main character Curtis Everett, Chris Evans once again rises to the occasion as a solitary hero.  He's a noble badass haunted by the years he's spent in the tail of Snowpiercer and embroiled in a bloody conflict he reluctantly leads.  For his part as the tail's elder and former leader Gilliam, John Hurt brings an intuition and warmth to the film like only the veteran British actor can.  He additionally brings a mentoring spirit to the movie that helps to guide Curtis on this journey to the front of the train.  We also have Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer as Edgar and Tanya respectively.  Both bring a tenacity and fierceness to the screen unlike any work they've done before.  It's not too often you'll see Minny from The Help wielding a weapon on the battlefield.

As for the antagonists, my favorite cast member is undoubtedly Tilda Swinton in her performance as Minister Mason.  Fresh from The Grand Budapest Hotel and Only Lovers Left Alive, the versatile screen actress once again immerses herself in a rather unique role and brings loads of personality to the screen.  With her uppity persona, Swinton is a sinister yet hilarious embodiment of all that’s wrong with the people at the front of the train.  As Wilford, Ed Harris is a delight as well.  Not dirtying his hands in the day-to-day operations of Snowpiercer, the railroad pioneer brings a civility to his horrific villainy that just clicks.  Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Alison Pill.  Though she only has a brief role on camera as the dainty school teacher, she's full of deadly surprises.

Borrowing elements from films past and offering something new and fresh, Snowpiercer is audacious filmmaking at its best.  Bong Joon-ho brings immense creativity and originality to the big screen with this adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.  With his cast and crew bringing their best as well, this is undoubtedly one outstanding motion picture.  Snowpiercer gets a sober rating.