Snowpiercer (Joon-ho Bong, 2014)

Despite conceptual simplicity, Snowpiercer is far and away one of the most effortlessly captivating sci-fi yarns in recent memory. Seventeen years after a global warming-induced apocalypse, humanity’s lone survivors are situated aboard the titular locomotive, forever circling the globe if only to live out the remainder of their predetermined existences. Given a particularly oppressive caste arrangement, one Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) and a bulk of his caboose-residing, lower-class cohorts take it upon themselves to initiate a revolt if only to violently achieve equality. Throwing the Snowpiercer into a state of uncertain disarray, Curtis and the gang steadfastly circumvent car after car in pursuit of the infamously unattainable goal.

As I embarrassingly admit my failure in familiarizing myself with Bong’s preceding works, Snowpiercer‘s abundant and palpable technical proclivity very much brand him as an assured master of his craft. Initially slow-going, the film consistently breezes past typical dystopian tropes via its sheer uniqueness of presentation and vision, the tail-riding populace’s familiarly grime-covered facade taking a backseat to general engagement. Once the proceedings chug past bare-boned, synopsis-heavy exposition, it becomes startlingly clear that nothing’s sacred in the wake of the tail-end’s actions; something that’s rather suitable given the gravity of revolting against the literal remainder of the human race.

Amid all of the appropriate grimness, Snowpiercer confidently flaunts awkwardly effective comedic tendencies. Juvenile as it may be, things like a cartoon-sized hammer landing smack in the middle of a group of bloodied and grappling tenants strike the right chord, as does cheeky dialogue, a pregnant, gun-toting schoolteacher and a caricature-esque Tilda Swinton functioning at full throttle. Humor aside, the film’s fully and fascinatingly realized aura balance everything near-perfectly, including but certainly not limited to the fantastical steampunk aesthetic complimenting the strikingly unique personalities of each and every car.

All things considered, let it be known the film in question is one of this year’s few consistently impressive efforts. Although others have rivaled its excellence, for Snowpiercer‘s genre-specific trappings to overcome rote archetypal exposition as confidently as it does is remarkable. Its assured, breathtaking aesthetic, tangible humanistic tendencies, technical proficiency and corresponding presentation are truly felt from start to finish, and to come across something in this vein that’s this multifaceted – in 2014 especially – is the polar opposite of a dime a dozen.

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