This year, Oscar for Best Picture of the Year went, for the very first time, to a foreign language film. South Korean director Bong Joon Ho walked away with the world’s most generous award for the bitter comedy Parasite.
In 2013, Ho directed the dystopian film Snowpiercer. Now the streaming giant Netflix has thrown itself into material and transformed the film into the TV series of the same name. This time she is a co-author and producer, and the plot is still the same.
A cold planet
Due to climate change, scientists have tried to save the Earth by cooling it down. Something that went into hell… ad undas – the result was that the whole globe froze to a bottom-frozen lump of ice, with an average daily temperature of a hefty -117 degrees. In other words, not quite optimal conditions for life.
The “solution” (for the few, rich, chosen) became a giant sheet in the form of a train set with 1001 carriages, which restlessly whizzes around the globe, and around, and around…
In the sheet train, “Snowpiercer”, took off from the platform, some of the underclass managed to fight their way on board. Some of the rebels are still on the train, in the very rear carriages, with a lack of heat, light and food. One of them, the former policeman Andre (Daveed Diggs), is brought forward to investigate a first-class bestial murder.
The further you get in the train set, the classes rise, and with them, comfort, goodness and luxury.
At the forefront is Ice Queen Melanie Cavill (Jennifer “The Rocketeer” Connelly) and manages the train community with distant, icy precision. The train is operated by the mythical engineer Mr. Wilford, who designed an eternity machine as a safe haven for the few thousand surviving earthlings. Admittedly, no one has seen Mr. Wilford for several years now.
In this absurd society, the 3,000 passengers have survived the last seven years in a more or less “normal” life. On board there are separate carts for the nightclub, spa, aquarium, gourmet restaurants and slaughterhouse with accompanying grazing cattle. But unrest threatens the camp of the roses, and the murder rate picks up.
The plot is based on the French comic Le Transperceneige, and in the usual comic book style, the violence is just as explicitly exaggerated and at times ultra-violent.
In one of the first episodes, the underclass passengers try to break out to force themselves forward in the train / hierarchy, with a bloodbath worthy of Caligula. The blood spray is in the ceiling as the throat is cut and the limbs are cut off.
The apocalyptic society reflects the time before the frost – for better or worse. Here there is intrigue, crime, corruption, jealousy, murder, violence and drugs. Where several of the players have unclean flour in the bag. The job of others is to solve the murder, but at the same time look through all the bullshit; and, hopefully help those still sitting in the back carriage.
Bad special effects
Being a large, lavish Netflix production in 2020, the data effects are sometimes shockingly poor.
In that train set racing through the Icelandic landscape, we get a glimpse of snow-capped mountains and plateaus – which looks more like plastic-fantastic a real thing. Then the interior looks much better / real, but even here there is an occasional lack of quality. The series looks surprisingly “cheap”.
Reminds a little too much of a 1990s film with a low budget and ambitions.
Connelly is brilliant as the cynical, smooth ice queen who rules her little empire with steel control, always present and a warm smile. But behind the perfect facade hides something completely different.
Daveed Diggs suits the role as a somewhat messy police investigator with a conscience and social responsibility, but beyond the two main roles, there are too few interesting characters that the series takes the time to dive into. There are many supporting roles that are there to “fill time” without they do not contribute to the dramaturgy or the progress of the story. Satire is never far away, but it is not clearly and unnecessarily toned down.
Snowpiercer, Season 1 (Photo: Netflix)
What makes the series interesting, and worth following, is that it follows many tracks and a varied theme.
Here there is obviously a harsh critique of class-divided societies at the bottom of the story, at the same time we are in more conventional murder investigation, led by the slightly revolutionary Andre, while it is all interspersed with sci-fi elements in a strongly dystopian wrapping.
We allow ourselves to be fascinated, albeit not directly carried away. Until then, Snowpiercer is too uneven and some of the episodes could have been cut down sharply.
For fans of apocalyptic movies / series, Snowpiercer is still a must-see series. It contains a sufficient number of fascinating elements and has an underlying mysterious tension and nerve. Too bad it lacks the technical / visual, as well as a somewhat uneven story; but definitely a series we will follow. 4 stars.
The review is based on the first 7 (of 10) episodes. Episode 1 premiered on May 18, with a new episode every following Monday.