On Friday night, my husband and I went to see Snowpiercer. My choice because he didn't mind. We had very different reactions to it.
For those who haven't heard of it, don't be surprised. When it came out two weeks ago, it only released on eight screens. It's expanded slightly in the time since, and somehow ended up in our local theater. It's a sci-fi set in the future where man has attempted to fix global warming and instead frozen the world, killing off most of the population. The few survivors exist on a perpetually moving train that circles the world. Chris Evans plays a man who's lived half his life on the train in the tail end, who is trying to plan a revolution to take over the train. The cast includes Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt. I liked it. My husband really didn't.
His issue related mostly to the continuity errors and absurdity of the situation. His scientific brain thought it was too over the top and couldn't get past it to get immersed in the world-building or characters. We spent almost an hour talking about it afterward, which actually hasn't happened with a movie for a long time. Honestly, I take that as a good thing, because it started a dialogue which I really can't say about a lot of movies.
The film is slow-paced at first, establishing the world and circumstances in which they live. The internal design is excellent and immersive. You get sucked into the cramped world of the train right away, gritty, claustrophobic, and desperate. Soon enough, however, the revolution begins, led by a surprisingly strong Chris Evans with Jamie Bell as the young Edgar who adores him at his side. The action sequences are well-choreographed and utterly brutal, but as each gate opens to reveal the next train, the sense of "What the hell is going to happen next?" gets stronger. This was the absurd my husband couldn't get past, and yet for me, it lent an air of unpredictability that helped keep me engaged when my logical brain caught continuity errors.
Performances are memorable, to say the least. Tilda Swinton plays the liaison Mason who moves between the cattle and first classes. She is bizarre and over the top, but Swinton keeps her palatable when I think a lesser actress would have us gritting our teeth in anticipation of her getting off screen faster. Bell is appropriately earnest, Hurt brings gravitas, Spencer is the earthy maternal figure to give a face of humanity to the fight, but oddly enough, it's Chris Evans who anchors it all together. His performance, while not perfect (his big speech near the end had me unfortunately giggling throughout because he just couldn't sell the truly awful dialogue to me), is realistic and sympathetic, without being simple. He is as flawed and unpredictable as the train upon which they live, and it's because of him that I was willing to go along with the story to the places it went.
The movie doesn't want to be pigeon-holed into a single category. It's sci-fi dystopia, but also political parable, and the ending totally plays into that. I won't spoil it, but it was another major talking point with us.
Do I recommend it? Yes, for not being your completely Hollywood sci-fi dystopian movie. It's visually stunning for the most part and will get you thinking. Plus, Chris Evans. And I say that as someone who has never been overly impressed with him before. As an extra, there are a TON of film and literary references in the movie. For people who like finding that kind of thing, it's a smorgasbord.
I don't think it's the best film of the year as so many reviewers are espousing, but definitely worth it.