Few films without a firm release date (in most of the world, at least) have inspired as much chatter of late than Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer." The English-language debut of the South Korean mastermind behind "Memories of Murder," "The Host" and "Mother," it features an all-star cast and a hefty budget, and was snapped up early on by The Weinstein Company. But after opening in South Korea in August, it's barely been seen in the rest of the world, with Harvey Weinstein holding the release in the territories he controls until he can cut a reported 20 minutes out to make it more palatable to western crowds. But one location in which Harvey Scissorhands doesn't hold the rights is France, and the director's cut opened there this week—appropriate, given that it's based on a French graphic novel called "Le Transperceneige." Eager to see what the fuss is about, we hopped on the Eurostar to Paris to check it out yesterday. And Harvey? We wouldn't touch a frame, because this might be the best pure science-fiction film since "Children of Men."
The film posits that in the near future, the governments of the world, keen to curb global warming, release a substance called CW7 into the atmosphere, designed to lower temperatures. It works, but too well, reducing the planet to a frozen, uninhabitable wasteland. The only survivors are those on board a train built by eccentric, reclusive transport magnate Wilford. The higher-ups live in luxury, while those with second-class tickets languish in squalor at the back, in fear of Wilford's soldiers, living off daily rations of grim, gelatinous protein bars of questionable origin. Previous revolts have always been quashed, but the one that Curtis (Chris Evans), a stoic rebel with a dark past, his second-in-command Edgar (Jamie Bell) and wise elder Gilliam (John Hurt) have been cooking up is different: because they've found out the location of Namgoong Minsu (Bong favourite Song Kang-ho), the incarcerated, drug-addled security expert who designed the doors of the train.