Back in 2013, two years after his debut as Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger, came one of the very best of Chris Evans’ roles to date. Adapted from the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and directed by renowned South Korean director and screenwriter Bong Joon-ho (Parasite), it stars Chris Evans, Kang-ho Song, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Go Ah-sung, John Hurt, and Ed Harris. Snowpiercer is a wild sci-fi thriller whose basic premise and tragedy can easily be found in many of the societal battles we face today.
It’s been 17 years since the world entered into a man-made ice age, a failed attempt at halting global warming proving fatal to all inhabitants of the Earth, save those fortunate few that boarded the eternal train, the Snowpiercer. The train is segregated by class, from the crowded, poverty-stricken tail section, continuing up to the prestigious front section and the sacred, eternal engine. Chris Evans stars as Curtis Everett, one of the many living in the squalor of the tail section, who leads the desperate inhabitants he resides with on a mutiny through the train in a quest to take over the engine, and in turn, the world.
The revolution is hard-fought and brutal, and the film spares no gory details or acts of “violent hooliganism.” Complete with fist fights, brutal axe battles, and a vicious, cold-blooded shoot out, it balances a story of hope and redemption, with the failures, betrayals, and tribulations that come with it — and if nothing, it proves that for some victories, one must pay the ultimate price.
To this day, Snowpiercer is still one of Evans’ top-rated films. Coming off the heels of Captain America: The First Avenger and the first of the four Avengers films (spot his prosthetic jaw to hide his beard in the end credits shawarma scene of The Avengers, the callback for that scene interfered with this project), this film brought him into an entirely different headspace than that of Steve Rogers. He brought Curtis to life with a raw desperation and jagged edge, while maintaining his humanity in a merciless, dystopian society. In an interview for Collider, director Bong Joon-ho discussed just what about Evans proved he had the malleability needed to materialize Curtis and his multifaceted and complex psyche. “Of course, Captain America is a cool character and he’s great in that, but they introduced me to a movie called Puncture, that’s an indie film where he shows his sensitive acting abilities …” Bong Joon-ho detailed, also citing Danny Boyles’ Sunshine from even earlier in Evans’ career. The downside to casting Evans in this role? Hiding his muscular physique. Thanks to some clever costuming and make-up, they were able to transform Captain America into a man left in destitution to die.
Curtis’ monologue to Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song) as they sit at the gate to the coveted engine room brings the entirety of his tragic story full circle in a whirlwind of rage, despair, grief, and desperation. It is here that Curtis admits his life’s greatest sins, and Evans held nothing back in portraying the agony Curtis faces as he prepares to face the originator of the eternal engine, and of the damnation he’d been resigned to die in, Wilford. It certainly holds its place among the best of Evans’ performances, and one that was able to really take him out of a role (and typecasts) he’d become so well known for and give him another avenue to showcase a talent that had yet to fully be uncovered and utilized in a larger scale production. He’s not just a superhero or a college frat boy, he possesses the dexterity for a multitude of roles, a skill which has been proven tenfold in the years following this performance.
The film itself covers a broad range of society’s shortcomings. The rich versus the poor, an unwillingness to help those less fortunate, the discrimination Curtis and his fellow people faced, and the lack of access to basic human needs can all be seen in our world today. This, paired with the brutal, cruel, and unnecessary punishments those in the tail section face (a man lost an arm for throwing a shoe) show a class warfare that is not unknown or strange to society. And of course, the looming environmental crisis sees one of its potential endgames here, with an ice age overtaking the Earth and rendering it uninhabitable. Climate change has long been talked about but little is being done to actually prevent it or curb its effects.
If not for Evans’ performance, the film is worth watching solely for its director, Bong Joon-ho. Now an Oscar winner for his groundbreaking film, Parasite (2019), Snowpiercer showcases the brilliance and skill of this master filmmaker and his team. Every frame is a stunning example of cinematography and true wonder to behold for those who enjoy an aesthetically breathtaking film.
Snowpiercer is currently available to stream on Netflix.