TL;DR – This an okay start, but nothing really captured me with the opening episodes.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
A couple of years ago, there was this truly fascinating film from Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho who would go on write/direct last year’s Oscar winner Parasite. I found the film to be fascinating right up until that ending which I am still going back and forth on. So when I heard they were going make a TV show out of it I was intrigued how they would pull it off, the setting is there, but is the story?
So to set the scene, as the world started to crash as global warming and sea levels swamped the coasts. To fix this the world’s scientist had a plan to cool the world down … and they went too far. The world was freezing over and one man had a solution, Mr Wilford who built a 1001 car train for the world’s rich. However, as it was about to take off on its never-ending journey across the world those who could not afford it boarded the train in the last-ditch effort to save themselves from the coming death. Six years later, those who made it on still live in the tail, living off meagre food bars, trying to find the right time to rebel. They are ready to make their move when their leader Layton (Daveed Diggs), is taken by the hospitality team led by Melanie (Jennifer Connelly) because he is the only homicide detective left on the train and someone just got murdered. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
There are so many different directions you can take a show like this, so a murder mystery seems like an odd choice at first, and after watching two episodes, I am not entirely sold on the premise. When you have a film, the run time necessitates you rushing through your plot because you have only an hour and a half (or maybe more) to get from start to finish. With a TV show, you have the luxury and sometimes the burden of having a long time to plan your story out. So you need a thread to pull it together, a thread to get someone from the tail to interact with the rest of the train. Within that context it feels like a good idea, to have the only homicide detective in the rear of the train, but it can’t help but feels a little forced, even if does allow a clear audience point of view.
The next big shift in the narrative comes in the role of Melanie, who fits in some ways the role that Tilda Swinton had in the film but more than that she is also Wilford. This means she lives a double life as being both the person in charge but also the public face of the train. Of the changes in the TV show this I think is the most interesting mostly because first Jennifer Connelly is an amazing actor so letting her have more range is always a good idea. But more than that, the dual nature of the role provides some interesting moments of friction that we can already start to see.
One of the core parts of the film (which if you know Bong’s work should come as no surprise) is the stark class divisions and conflicts. This is here of course in the film where we get a more defined Tail, 3rd, 2nd, and 1st class division, indeed in the second episode one character goes out of their way to declare that we will ‘eat the rich’ a phrase that works within the context of the show if it didn’t feel so forced in its addition. Overall, in the attempt to ground the TV show a bit more in reality, and step back from the more over the top elements of the film it dilutes the bluntness of the class message and I am not yet convinced that is a good thing.
One area where we do see a lot of potentials is in the design. Each of the sections has a clear identity and feel to it while still keeping the bonkers reveal of each section as we see the juxtaposition of an aquarium in the world of cannibalism. The first two episodes have hit the right balance and given we have over a thousand carriages to explore they have a lot of room to manoeuvre. However, for a train with back up redundancies everywhere, you would think you would have cattle in more than one location.|
nothing that stands out as being terribly bad in these first episodes, but then nothing stands out as being terribly good. There were a couple of interesting moments here and there, but nothing to capture me yet, and I am not sure with everything being so muted from the film if it has the legs to go on.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Snowpiercer
Directed by – James Hawes & Sam Miller
Written by – Josh Friedman, Graeme Manson & Donald Joh
Developed by – Josh Friedman & Graeme Manson
Based on – Snowpiercer by Bong Joon Ho & Kelly Masterson and Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand & Jean-Marc Rochette
Production/Distribution Companies – TnT and Netflix
Starring – Jennifer Connelly, Daveed Diggs, Mickey Sumner, Alison Wright, Lena Hall, Iddo Goldberg, Susan Park, Katie McGuinness, Sam Otto, Sheila Vand, Roberto Urbina, Mike O’Malley, Annalise Basso & Jaylin Fletcher