'Snowpiercer' Review: A meticulously crafted, riveting dystopian thriller that commands undivided attention
If anything, the Snowpiercer is a world within itself where humanity despite on the verge of being wiped out from existence still has some malignant tumors that have been dominant for decades
No spoilers for 'Snowpiercer'
It was perhaps fitting that 'Snowpiercer' would make its debut at a time like this. With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic bringing the production of news shows to a jarring halt, content that falls under the category of intense and enthralling are quite rare. This dystopian thriller has had its share of snags before strapping up for a debut. The TV series was first put into motion in 2015, a pilot order followed in 2016 and then brought up to a full-fledged series in 2018.
Josh Friedman, the original showrunner and creator, left the series marking the arrival of Graeme Manson. Scott Derrickson, the original director of the pilot, cited creative differences with Manson and didn't return for the pilot's reshoot sequences. James Hawes completed the reshoots in July 2018 and it was announced TBS would be taking the show. However, it returned to TNT in 2019. So it is safe to say, 'Snowpiercer' has been on some tough tracks.
Based on the 1982 French graphic novel 'Le Transperceneige' and the 2013 South Korean-Czech film of the same name, directed by Bong Joon-ho, the series is a reboot and portrays the world as an insanely frozen wasteland after a human experiment to cool down temperatures goes woefully wrong. To survive, a Mr Wilford builds one of the largest, complex trains in the world inhabited by the survivors. A mammoth 1001-car carriage that chugs around the globe.
It is hard to ignore the meticulous planning and the detail that has gone in to introduce the setting. If anything, the Snowpiercer is a world within itself where humanity despite on the verge of being wiped out from existence still has some malignant tumors that have been dominant for decades — class divide, politics, corruption and social injustice. The four segments in the complex construct see the higher-class right at the top, while the tail-end as the name suggests is right at the back with a massive car difference in between.
The opening minutes give a quick account of the details that led to the current state of affairs. The viewers are introduced to Daveed Diggs, who plays the sole surviving homicide detective, Andre Layton, and is one of the tails. Much before he is pulled by the ones on top for a job, he is seen planning a resistance with the survivors. It is evident they do not make it far. Despite the fact they have been circling the world for six years, not a single one has an idea of what to encounter.
The series establishes early on about the sinister secrets that lurk in the Snowpiercer when Layton is asked to investigate and solve a grotesque murder, the course of which takes him through the various sections of the train. And in his mission, he crosses paths with Melanie Cavill (Jennifer Connelly) best known to the entire train as the "Voice of the Train" as he attempts to find an answer to the murder. Predictably, there isn't a lot for Layton to work with.
There is also that storyline that tests Layton's loyalty to the tail and this coupled with his love interest, Zarah Ferami's (Sheila Vand) storyline, adds to the many layers of storytelling the series comprises of. It is an ensemble cast that includes Alison Wright, Mickey Sumner, Lena Hall, Steven Ogg, Iddo Goldberg, Annalise Basso, and Katie McGuinness. With new characters introduced almost in each act, the series demands attention and repays it by some riveting developments over the course of the series.
Manson weaves in these different plot threads quite impressively that they don't really get the viewers to any sort of confusion. It puts in the tail and the top-tier in the spotlight in equal measure. The pacing and tone play essential roles and add to the depth of the series. You can't help but think that the Snowpiercer is just a mirage, for all the comfort and the lavish, extravagant lives, each person has a story to tell and most of them are dark.
Diggs and Connelly blend perfectly into their surroundings and own the frame each time. Vand and Summer play their roles to perfection while the rest of the ensemble cast drop in and out seamlessly. And while it does like they may be out as quickly as they came in, they still contribute to the storyline as these minor details add to the larger story the series attempts to tell.
'Snowpiercer' is an audacious project. To match up to the popularity of the novel and the acclaimed film, it attempts to follow in the same footsteps as the Chris Evans starrer. What works in its favor is the attention to detail and the simple storytelling method. There are no complications to the plot that completely divert the major story and that makes this post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller worth the watch.
'Snowpiercer' debuts on May 17 at 9 pm ET on TNT.