Bong Joon-ho’s (The Host—the giant monster one, not the crappy teen love story one) English-language debut, Snowpiercer, is one of my most anticipated movies, sci-fi or otherwise, of 2013. The film is in the middle of editing, and though we should see it sometime later this year, we haven’t laid eyes on much from the film. That’s all changed now, as we have our first look at most of the main players in the form of passports and boarding passes.
The cast of Snowpiercer is kind of ridiculous. The credits include Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Song Kang-ho, Ko Asung, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Alison Pill, and Ewen Bremner.
Set in a future, attempts to reverse global warming have kickstarted a new global ice age. All life is now extinct, except for a those lucky enough to be on board a high tech train called Snowpiercer. Powered by a perpetual motion engine, the train circles endlessly.
Inside the vehicle, a rigid class system has developed, separating the passengers into haves and have-nots. Some live in luxury, while their neighbors scrape by in abject squalor. Given the circumstances, it was almost a given that revolution bubbles among the lower caste.
While their a cool promotional gimmick for the film, these passports also reveal bits of information about Snowpiercer. We get our first real look at the appearances of the characters—like Evans’ smudged face, Harris’ mysterious shadow, and Bremner looking like an incredible lunatic—but the photos also give us an idea of what the interior sets look like. Dark and grubby, the inside of the train definitely looks like tons people are crammed into a small space.
In addition to biographical information about the actors, you learn where they ride in the train, which tells you more about how it is segregated. The more impoverished characters, like Hurt’s Gilliam and Spencer’s Tanya, reside in the back of the train—which feels like an obvious metaphor—while Swinton’s Mason rides near the front. There’s also a prison section of the Snowpiercer, which is where Yona (Ko Asung) and Namgoong Minsu (Song) are kept.
Snowpiercer may look bleak and grim, but movies about the end of the world are so rarely full of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. But if you mix what we learn from these passports with the pieces of concept art and score that we’ve seen, this movie becomes more and more promising.