2016.55: Snowpiercer (Blu-ray)
Well, this is more like it. Once you get over the implausible set-up (ahem: scientists trying to ‘cure’ Global Warming have plunged the Earth into a new Ice Age that has killed all life, the only remnants of humanity surviving on a train that circumvents the planet once a year), what remains is a very enjoyable fantasy, sort of like a Twilight Zone episode by way of Terry Gilliam. Full of metaphors for the human condition and the separation of the haves and have-nots of society (literally the rabble at the back, the elite at the front, so very British), it’s similar to the approach the 1960s Star Trek took with its allegories of real-world events and situations. Whether Snowpiercer really holds-up or just betrays the projects simplistic, comic-book roots is subject to some debate and depends on how much you are willing to go along for the (train) ride.
But of course that’s the problem- here in the UK we aren’t allowed to go for that ride, as the film is still officially unreleased over here- my copy being a Blu-ray from Australia. The film ran foul of studio executives and threatened recuts and was eventually through some kind of studio politics tit-for-tat subject to limited distribution. Its crazy that a film like this has yet to be released here- the film may have its faults but it clearly deserved much better, if only a belated straight-to-video release (which is the likeliest scenario now after so many years).
So yes, to be clear, as the premise might suggest, it’s a bit daft, and I’m not going to suggest its some kind of genre classic suffering a monstrous injustice. But it is very sincere and made with real conviction- it’s well-acted (Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris all in terrific form) with beautiful production values and an often charming, darkly witty script that rewards attention. Certainly it’s refreshing to find a genre film that -rather preposterous prologue notwithstanding- drops the viewer into its world with minor information, leaving the viewer to discover what is going on and unravel the central mysteries/twists rather than be simply spoon-fed them. Consequently it’s best that the viewer watches the film with as little prior information as possible so I am reticent to progress further into spoiler territory, even for a film that was released back in 2013.
Its a silly situation really, and it must seem dumb to people in other territories who have had the film available for a few years now to the extent that the film is actually ‘old news’. Its like some kind of bizarre throwback to the old days when films would take years to be released across international territories, like us in the UK waiting six months or more for Jaws and Star Wars etc. But three years and counting? Thats some kind of tragedy really.
At any rate, while keeping details vague, I can easily recommend the film as worthy of going through the hoops needed to actually see it here in the UK. It’s surprising really that the presence of Chris Evans alone (considering the success of the Captain America films etc) hasn’t been enough to encourage a release for the film here yet, and considering the length of time that has passed now I suspect an eventual home video release is the best that might be expected. Surely most people curious about it have seen the film, like me, through other channels anyway. Is it actually possible it may never get released over here? Thats a depressing thought considering whats playing over at my local multiplex now and getting released on disc this Monday. I mean, I’m not suggesting Snowpiercer is Citizen Kane or something, but this situation is making me wonder whats going on these days- its a crazy world when films like this get lost in some kind of limbo considering all the different distribution channels available now. Really, it’s all so 2016. What a bloody year.