Snowpiercer (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 26-Nov-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action Audio Commentary
Featurette-Making Of-The Birth of Snowpiercer (15:09)
Featurette-Characters (13:08)
Interviews-Cast-Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer (4:40)
More…-Extended Animated Clip (4:32)
Featurette-Snowpiercer Austin Q&A (8:08)
Featurette-Making Of-Transperceneige (54:26)
Trailer-x 3 for other films
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 126:12
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bong Joon-ho
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Chris Evans
Song Kang-ho
Jamie Bell
Octavia Spencer
John Hurt
Ko Asung
Ed Harris
Case ?
RPI ? Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In an attempt to halt global warming governments fired a coolant called CW-7 into the atmosphere. It had more than the desired effect; the world froze and life became extinct. The only humans who survived this new man-made ice age where those who managed to board a single, self-sustaining train that runs on a permanent rail loop around the world. Now, 17 years later, the train still runs but is heavily regulated and the classes segregated: the first class passengers live a privileged lifestyle at the front of the train while at the rear the occupants live in dirt and squalor, fed on a diet of processed “protein blocks” and kept in check by brutal guards under the control of Mason (Tilda Swinton), who preaches the mantra that everyone has their preordained place.

     Some in the tail of the train, especially Curtis (Chris Evans), are determined to revolt and reach the front of the train. Curtis looks up to the elderly Gilliam (John Hurt) as his mentor while others including Edgar (Jamie Bell) and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) look up to Curtis. Curtis’ initial plan requires the group to overpower their guards and advance a few carriages to the prison car and there rescue Namkoong Minsoo (Song Kang-ho), a security expert who knows how to unlock the metal doors further up the train. They are successful and Namkoong is freed along with a young woman called Yona (Ko Asung), who may be clairvoyant. The group then fights their way towards the front of the train until finally Curtis gets to the engine and meets the builder of the train and controller of everything within it, Mr. Wilford (Ed Harris). But there Curtis learns that everything he has believed is a lie.

     Bong Joon-ho, who directed The Host (2006) and Mother (2009), is another well regarded Korean director who is stepping outside his native country; Snowpiercer, based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige that first appeared in 1982, is his first English language film. Snowpiercer is a film with clear messages; about the destruction of the environment by humans, about class and control and about keeping to your ordained place in an ordered societal structure, a view that Aristotle and countless repressive regimes would readily appreciate. Yet Bong Joon-ho never allows the message to get in the way of telling his story with energy and humour.

     A film set completely with the confines of a train, utilising the more claustrophobic 1.85:1 aspect ratio, could become repetitive, a trap which Snowpiercer avoids as each carriage in the train is different. The rear coaches are grey, dirty and squalid, the clothes of the people there torn and colourless. The contrast between the haves and have nots is effortlessly shown in one early sequence (around 13:45) when a woman in a bright yellow coat comes from the front of the train, the colour of her coat standing out against the monochrome of the clothes and living conditions of the others. As Curtis and his group advance along the train, the colours and set design change; some carriages are bright with windows which let in the light from the snowy wastes outside, others hold a green garden or a blue aquarium, and still others contain the reds and wood panels of the privileged class. Yet, while Snowpiercer utilises these themes and contrasts, it does not skimp on the action, which is chaotic, bloody and brutal although much of the violence is not directly shown.

     Snowpiercer also boasts an impressive cast. Chris Evans sheds his clean-cut Captain America persona to give us a conflicted, flawed and dirty Curtis, while Oscar winner Tilda Swindon (best supporting actress for Michael Clayton) has a heap of fun as the outrageous Mason. (I should add that a strand of wit flows through the film; for example, it uses Cream’s Strange Brew on the soundtrack when Curtis and the group enter the car where the “protein” blocks are being produced). John Hurt and Ed Harris are excellent in their supporting roles and Korean actor Song Kang-ho is fabulous. Song has an expressive face while doing very little. He has worked with Bong Joon-ho before in The Host, but I have been a big fan of Song since I saw him in The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008), playing, appropriately, the weird! Ko Asung, who was also in The Host, is good as Song’s daughter.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Snowpiercer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, close to the original 1.85:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The detail of the film is impressive, with every line and dirt mark on faces finely detailed. Colours vary from the monochrome greys of the rear carriages, to vibrant greens, blues and yellows further forward in the train, to the brilliant white of the snow outside. Blacks are solid and shadow detail excellent; there are a lot of scenes in semi-darkness and we see what we are intended to see in every case. Skin tones are pale, which is understandable given the characters have not seen the sun for 18 years, while contrast and brightness is consistent.

     I did not notice any marks or artefacts.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available while small white subtitles come on automatically during sections of Korean dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The feature audio is English DTS-HD MA 5.1 while there are also an English audio description track using a male voice and an English commentary, both Dolby Digital 2.0.

     The audio is fabulous. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear and the rears and surrounds are always in play. In the quieter moments there is always the rumble of the train, the muted mumble of voices or the music. The action scenes are chaotic, with yells, crashes, thumps, gunshots, ricochets plus engine noises. There are also pans as the train speeds by. The sub-woofer added bass to the opening and closing of heavy doors, the avalanche, the impacts, the engine and the music.

    Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The original score by prolific composer Marco Beltrami (who was nominated for Oscars for The Hurt Locker and 3:10 to Yuma) is atmospheric and supported the visuals well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Trailers

     Trailers for Expendables 3, These Final Hours and Into the Storm play on start-up. They cannot be selected from the menu.

Audio Commentary Scott Weinberg

     This is a different type of audio commentary. Scott Weinberg is a reviewer for GeekNation, so has nothing to do with the making of Snowpiercer. Instead, he is a knowledgeable critic and in the course of the commentary calls up five other reviewers / critics to talk about the film. The result is a wide-ranging discussion covering items such as the cast, the score, the themes of the film, influences, Korean cinema, distribution, hype, the marketing of blockbusters and film criticism. This is informative and interesting, so well worth a listen.

The Birth of Snowpiercer (15:09)

     Essentially an EPK “making of” with on set footage, concept drawings and interviews with a wide range of people including director Bong Joon-ho, DP Hong Kyeang-pyo, the art director, VFX supervisor, costume designer, hair and make-up artist, the line producer and seven cast members. Items covered, albeit superficially, include the original French comic, themes, characters, stunts, costumes, the look of the film and the director’s working methods.

Characters (13:08)

     With film footage, behind the scenes footage and interviews, director Bong Joon-ho discusses the main actors and characters in the film:

Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer (4:40)

     Evans and Swinton talk about some of their experiences filming Snowpiercer.

Extended Animated Clip (4:32)

     A sequence explaining how the new Ice Age was created by humans and the beginnings of the Snowpiercer train.

Snowpiercer Austin Q&A (8:08)

     In 2014 a train was fitted out as “Snowpiercer” and fans travelled across Texas to an outdoor screening of the film, after which Tim League chatted to Bong Joon-ho about films he liked and had influenced him.

Transperceneige (54:26)

     Subheaded “From the Blank Page to the Black Screen” this is a 2013 French made documentary which concentrates on Jean-Marc Rochette, the man who illustrated the comic Le Transperceneige, and to a lesser extent Benjamin Legrand, the writer who wrote books 2 and 3 of the comic. It covers how Rochette was hired by the original writer Jacques Lob, the comic’s fading into obscurity, the surprise Korean request to adapt the comic, meeting with Bong Joon-ho, Rochette and Legrand on the set of the film and acting as extras in a scene, the two visiting Korea for a screening of the film and attending comic festivals and further screenings and events in France. The documentary concludes with Rochette, now a painter in Berlin, and his observations about Le Transperceneige, comics and fame. This documentary is something quite different and is very interesting.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US version of Snowpiercer is the same except that it adds Spanish subtitles and two galleries (15 and 25 images) of train design and sketches. I would still call this a draw.

Summary

     It has been a good few years for impressive sci/fi films such as Edge of Tomorrow, Elysium or Oblivion. Snowpiercer can hold up its head in this company and throws in a message about society as well. If you have any interest in science fiction that is visually exciting, intellectually stimulating, innovative, well made and well-acted take a look at Snowpiercer. You will not be disappointed.

     The video is good, the audio excellent and we get almost all of the very good extras available in other regions. A fabulous film and a great Blu-ray package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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