Column Corner: Movies

Most people have probably never heard of Bong Joon-Ho’s “Snowpiercer.” Released quietly earlier this year, the film only managed to make $4.5 million at the domestic box office despite making history as South Korea’s largest grossing movie.

Starring Chris Evans from “Captain America” and Tilda Swinton from the “The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” “Snowpiercer” makes a case for this year’s most entertaining movie.

Based on the French graphic novel, “Le Transperceneige,” “Snowpiercer” takes place on a train that contains the last remnants of humanity who have taken shelter from the onset of the world’s second ice age.

The train is divided into cars. The poor refugees live in the rear car where they are forced into cramped quarters with only black protein bars for food. In the front car, Conductor Wilford lives with the privileged few who enjoy all the comforts they could ask for.

Led by Chris Evans’ character, Curtis, the tail section incites a rebellion that spans the length of the movie, as well as the length of the train.

The train is what makes “Snowpiercer” unique. Each train car has its own individual character, like a large circular aquarium. This makes the setting feel just as alive as the characters themselves. “Snowpiercer” also spends a lot of time developing each of its characters, from Evans’ to Swinton’s antagonistic spokesperson for the rich front end of the train and the “benevolent and merciful” Conductor Wilford.

Swinton gives off the same aura as a cartoon villain, her posh white outfit contrasting directly with the dirty, grungy environment of the tail section of the train and its inhabitants. Think of Swinton’s character as an evil version of Margaret Thatcher representing the world’s one percent.

As a social satire of the world’s wealth gap, the film lacks the subtly and pointed critiques of Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” and the news satire “Network.”

The film works best as an action movie, with the setting lending itself to more inventive set pieces than any summer blockbuster released in the past five years. Joon-Ho often plays the inequality between the front end of the train and the tail section for laughs or to feed his own surreal sensibilities.

In the hands of a less-assured director, these disparate tones would clash and create confusion. But Joon-Ho plays everything straight-faced and without a hint of pretension. In one bloody action scene, a character is shown slipping on a fish after chopping off the arm of one of the guards of the train’s “sacred engine.”

The movie is both funny for its randomness and suspenseful as the character is someone we’ve grown to care for during the movie’s extremely well-written beginning. Joon-Ho’s ability to change the tone of the film from hilarity to suspense on the fly is what makes “Snowpiercer” the wildest ride of the year.

“Snowpiercer” is now available on Blu Ray and DVD. Be sure to listen to this week’s On Tap at for a more in-depth discussion of “Snowpiercer” and weekly movie reviews.