- Last Updated: Saturday, 16 May 2020 18:43
Academy Award® winner Bong Joon Ho (PARASITE) executive produces TNT's "Snowpiercer," and his footprint is all over the heightened class struggle. However, don't expect the new series to be anything like the movie or the graphic novel. The show starts off clunky but by episode five, you're hooked.
"Snowpiercer" takes place seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland instead of the 17 years from the theatrical version starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton. The train inhabitants blame the "elite" for bringing on the human-made apocalypse hence setting up the haves versus the have-nots in a confined space. The surviving human beings live on a 1001-car train perpetually-moving locomotive circling the globe.
The show is much more complicated than the 2013 film in that the social injustice is much greater with four social classes living on the train. The first class are filthy rich while the second class and third rate citizens are the hired help serving the first class passengers. The stowaways in the tail live in inhumane conditions, and are planning their revolt on day one of the show.
Like in the movie, Wilford, the man behind the curtain is not seen or heard. Jennifer Connelly plays Wilford's second in command, Melanie Cavill, while Daveed Diggs is Andre Layton, a tail resident leading the revolution.
Once we're introduced to the characters, the survival story soon becomes a ridiculous murder mystery on a train. Layton, a police detective prior to the apocalypse, is yanked from the tail and ordered to solve it. The plot feels out of place along with some badly delivered dialogue, but it does set up the dynamic for the rest of the show when the lower class aren't the only ones revolting against the hierarchy due to the events of that case.
"Snowpiercer" is not an easy watch with dark themes of human suffering at the hands of the upper class. There's plenty of tension among the classes and the episodes are certainly leading up to an all out war in a confined space.
Speaking of space, the production design in the double decker bullet train is unrealistic. Anyone who's been on an Amtrak, knows the space is narrow yet in the show there's cramped nightclubs obviously bigger than the width of the cars. The luxury suites for the rich are beyond the size of the train cars. Other spaces seem fitting with Melanie's cramped quarters, the dining areas, the front cab with the engineers and the tail. The characters are constantly reminding viewers there are 1001 cars on the Snowpiercer as a way to justify the endless new environments we encounter, some too big for the setting.
There's nothing original about the different communities or settings viewer's are introduced to in the early episodes. The post apocalypse tropes are in abundance here between illegal bartering of items, a crime ring, a red light district, unsavory characters and a few Mad Max types.
As the show goes along, "Snowpiercer" becomes a more intriguing show as we learn more sinister things are going on behind the scenes. At first it seems Melanie (Connelly) doesn't rule with an iron hand, instead the character is more compassionate and amenable to the detective's requests. However that's not the case as the show goes on, and now viewers may want to return every week to watch the outcome or get explanations.
Daveed Diggs as the lead is an acquired taste lacking any real depth and outrage as we saw in Chris Evans' performance in the 2013 film. However, viewers eventually become invested in his journey.
Jennifer Connelly, on the other hand, plays a very layered character who is a tough read. She seems sensible at first but there's something untrustworthy about her. Midway through the show, her true colors begin to show. Viewers will stick with the show for her trajectory.
"Snowpiercer" examines class warfare in an extreme setting which makes it an intriguing prospect but it's not on the level of Bong Joon Ho's genius storytelling with subversive themes. Instead you're hit over the head with it in TNT's "Snowpiercer." You'll have to get through the first clunky episodes but by episode four, your interest will be cemented.