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Snowpiercer poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Produced by Park Chan-wook
Lee Tae-hun
Jeong Tae-sung
Steven Nam
Screenplay by Bong Joon-ho
Kelly Masterson
Story by Bong Joon-ho
Based on Le Transperceneige 
by Jacques Lob
Benjamin Legrand
Jean-Marc Rochette
Starring Chris Evans
Song Kang-ho
Tilda Swinton
Jamie Bell
Octavia Spencer
John Hurt
Ed Harris
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo
Edited by Steve M. Choe
Changju Kim
  • Moho Films
  • Opus Pictures[1]
Distributed by RADiUS-TWC
(North America)
CJ Entertainment
(South Korea)
Release dates August 1, 2013
(South Korea)
June 27, 2014
(United States)
Running time 126 minutes
Country South Korea[1]
Language English
Budget $39.2 million (estimated)[2]
Box office $86.6 million[3]

Snowpiercer (Korean: 설국열차; hanja: 雪國列車; RR: Seolgungnyeolcha) is a 2013 Korean science fiction action film based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette.[1] The film is directed by Bong Joon-ho,[4][5] and written by Bong and Kelly Masterson. The film marks Bong's English-language debut; approximately 80% of the film was shot in English.[6][7]

The film stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris.


In 2014, an experiment to counteract global warming causes an ice age that kills nearly all life on Earth. The only survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train, powered by a perpetual-motion engine, that travels on a globe-spanning track. A class system is installed, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and poor inhabiting the tail.

In 2031, the tail inhabitants prepare for the latest in a series of rebellions. Guards arrive periodically to deliver protein blocks for food, and take some of the children. During the guards’ next visit, Curtis Everett leads the tail inhabitants in revolt, forcing their way through several train cars to the prison section. There, they release prisoner Namgoong Minsu, the man who built the security system that controls the doors dividing each car, and his clairvoyant daughter Yona. They offer him uncut Kronole, a drug that both he and his daughter are addicted to, as payment for unlocking each of the remaining doors.

One of the cars is filled with armed men. Under the orders of Minister Mason, the men battle Curtis' forces; Curtis' side prevails, and he captures Mason, but he is forced to sacrifice his second-in-command, Edgar, to do so. Mason agrees to lead the group through the high-class cars in exchange for her life. In the school car, the teacher points out seven frozen rebels through the window, she and a henchman then draw machine guns, slaughtering many of Curtis' followers, and executing his mentor Gilliam; as revenge, Curtis kills Mason.

Curtis, his few remaining followers, and Namgoong and Yona continue through the train, discovering the extravagance in which the elites have been living while the poor wallowed in squalor. One of Mason's henchmen, Franco the Elder, kills the rest of Curtis' followers, Tanya and Grey, before the henchman is himself seemingly killed. Curtis resolves to complete his mission, accompanied by Namgoong and Yona. The trio moves through the remaining cars where the elite indulge in food, partying and Kronole; Namgoong steals much of this Kronole from the inebriated revellers. As they arrive at the Engine door, Namgoong suggests they use the collected Kronole, made from explosive chemical waste, to blow open the side of the train, and escape into the outside; Namgoong explains that every year, the train has passed a crashed plane buried in snow, which has become less buried with each passing year, suggesting that Earth is warming, and that survival outside is now possible.

Curtis explains why he must confront Wilford, creator of the train and its hierarchy. When the tail dwellers first boarded the train, they were deprived of food, water, or supplies, in crowded conditions, forcing them to turn to cannibalism. Before the introduction of the protein blocks, Curtis had kidnapped an infant Edgar to eat him, and killed his mother, before Gilliam cut his own arm off and offered it in Edgar's place. Namgoong resolves to use the explosive, but the engine door opens and Namgoong is shot and wounded by Wilford's assistant Claude, who forces Curtis inside. Curtis confronts Wilford, who explains that the revolution was orchestrated between himself and Gilliam as a means of population control, necessary to maintaining balance aboard the train for supplies, but Curtis was too successful and Wilford's own losses too great, so he executed Gilliam as punishment. The aging Wilford says that he wants Curtis to replace him as the train's overseer, while in the tail, Wilford's henchmen execute all but 26% of inhabitants.

Meanwhile, Yona and the recovered Namgoong fight off the irate partiers and Franco (who survived the previous fight). Yona knocks Claude unconscious, gets inside the engine room and pulls up the floor to reveal that Wilford is using the tail children as slave labor, to replace the train's failing components. Outraged, Curtis sacrifices his arm to block the train gears, freeing one of the children, Timmy. Yona recovers the explosive from Claude and ignites it, before retreating into the engine with Namgoong. The damaged engine door fails to close, and Namgoong and Curtis sacrifice themselves to shield Yona and Timmy from the resulting explosive fire. The explosion sound wave causes an avalanche in the surrounding mountains that strikes and derails the train, destroying many of the cars and possibly killing everyone inside of them. In the aftermath, Yona and Timmy step outside into the snow. In the distance Yona spots a polar bear, revealing that life exists outside the train.


The creators of the graphic novel, Jean-Marc Rochette and Benjamin Legrand, have cameo appearances in the film.[8]


  • Bong Joon-ho – director, writer
  • Kelly Masterson – writer
  • Park Chan-wook – producer
  • Hong Kyung-pyo – cinematographer
  • Ondrej Nekvasil – production designer
  • Catherine George – costume designer
  • Steve M. Choe – editor
  • Changju Kim – editor
  • Marco Beltrami – composer
  • Eric Durst – visual effects designer


In 2005, Bong visited his regular comic book shop in Hongdae area, Seoul, during pre-production of The Host. He found Jean-Marc Rochette's French graphic novel series Le Transperceneige and finished reading the entire series while standing in front of the bookshelf where he found it. He was fascinated by ideas of people struggling on the train for survival, and how every section is classified in social stratification. Bong showed the series to his friend, fellow director Park Chan-wook, who loved it as well. In the following year, Park's production company Moho Films secured the screen rights to the series for Bong.[9] During the pre-production in South Korea, Bong wanted a film studio with a 75–100 meters long space to fill with four train cars connected together. Therefore, Bong and his production team travelled to Europe for a studio scouting and ended up with two studio choices: Barrandov Studios in Czech Republic and Korda Studios in Hungary. For the screenplay adaptation, Bong reached out to Kelly Masterson, having seen Masterson's work on Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Masterson and Bong originally envisioned a romantic story for the protagonist; however they jettisoned that idea in subsequent drafts of the screenplay. [10] In September 2011, a Czech producer hired by the production team began negotiations with two film studios for availability; Barrandov Studios was chosen eventually for the film studio and production service provider of Snowpiercer.[11][12]


In mid-March 2012, the film crew travelled to Tyrol, Austria to shoot some snowy scenery on the Hintertux Glacier in one day.[13] Principal photography officially began on April 16, 2012 and wrapped on July 14 in Barrandov Studios.[2] The post-production was carried out in South Korea.[2]

Visual effects[edit]

The visual effects company Scanline VFX worked on Snowpiercer. [14]

Primarily, Scanline VFX worked mostly on the exterior shots of the film: the frozen city, the Yekatarina Bridge, the Frozen Harbour landscape in the sushi lounge, the "Frozen Seven" sequence, the industrial park in the shoot-out sequence and the post crash environment/avalanche at the end of the film. Already having multiple designs, storyboards and basic concepts of the train cars, it set in motion the development of over 60 different versions of the various wagons for the train Snowpiercer, thus, "[...] we [had] a good idea of the vision of director Bong, we saw what he liked, and what did not work for the movie.", said visual effects supervisor Michel Mielke. [15]

Eric Durst, the visual effects designer, spoke of the Aquarium Car being an intriguing challenge of lighting, with the differentiation of a water-based environment on one side and a frozen-based landscape at the other. Durst and his team, including director of photography Alex Hong, had light "travel through water trays on top of the aquarium structure". Himself adding, "These refracted the light spilling on the actors, replicating the way light would react in an actual aquarium environment." In the task of creating that world, Mark Breakspear and his team in Vancouver spent a great amount of time at the Vancouver Aquarium to study " the fish, the lighting environments, the way the light refracted through the water and glass, along with how it distorted the fish as they passed."[16]

One of the most challenging effects, on the train, was the length of the train, and the number of cars needed to be handled. Mielke had a "very complex rig" created and built to provide the animators involved in the creating process with enough capability as was possible, he stated, "The rig managed that the train automatically followed the rails, that the motion of the wagons where simulated depending on the rails, that the wagons could be changed easily and so on." [17]

In parallel to principal photography in Prague, the first designs of visuals spanned from May 2012 up until the final shots of early March 2013, with team of over 70 artists developing over 186 VFX-shots with almost 50 being full of computer-generated imagery. [18]


Snowpiercer premiered at the Times Square on July 29, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea, [19] before screening at the Deauville American Film Festival as the closing film on September 7 2013, [20] the Berlin International Film Festival as the part of Berlin's Forum sidebar on February 7, 2014, [21] opening the Los Angeles Film Festival on 11 June, 2014, [22] and the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 22 June, 2014. [23]

US release controversy[edit]

On 9 November 2012, The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights to Snowpiercer from CJ Entertainment, based on the script and some completed footage, with a plan for wide release in North America, as well as throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. [24] On 27 June 2014, however, it was only released in the US on June 27, 2014, in just eight theaters in selected cities.[25] This delay was caused by Harvey Weinstein, an owner of The Weinstein Company, requesting 20 minutes of footage be cut and opening and closing monologues be added. Bong refused to cut it. American fans anticipating the film were outraged, spawning the Free Snowpiercer petition campaign (founded by cinematic activist Denise Heard-Bashur) demanding the director's cut of the film to be released in the US.[26] Eventually Bong succeeded in getting the film released in an uncut form;[27] however Weinstein retaliated by relegating the film to Radius-TWC, which meant the film only received a limited release in art house cinemas.[28] On 3 July 2014, it was announced that thanks to the positive reviews and buzz the film would get a wider US release and play in over 150 theaters.[29]


Box office[edit]

Since its South Korean opening, the film has earned US$80.2 million.[30] As of April 2014, it is the tenth highest-grossing domestic film in South Korea with 9,350,141 admissions.[31] The film holds the domestic record for the fastest movie (domestic and foreign) to reach four million admissions, which it achieved in its fifth day after premiere, and another record for the highest weekend figure (from Friday to Sunday) for a Korean film with 2.26 million viewers.[32] The film took in a total of $171,187 on its US opening weekends, averaging $21,398 per theater.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Snowpiercer received near-universal acclaim by critics and audiences, particularly for Bong Joon-ho's direction, its international ensemble cast, visual scope, social commentary, Hong Kyung-pyo's cinematography, and Ondrej Nekvasil's production design.

Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 95% of critics gave the film a "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 159 reviews with an average score of 8.1/10, with the site's consensus stating, "Snowpiercer offers an audaciously ambitious action spectacular for filmgoers numb to effects-driven blockbusters." [33] Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a weighted average score of 84 (out of 100) based on 36 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "universal acclaim". It is currently one of the site's highest-rated films as well as one of the best reviewed films of 2014. [34]

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the piece an "A" rating, stating, "Snowpiercer sucks you into its strange, brave new world so completely, it leaves you with the all-too-rare sensation that you've just witnessed something you've never seen before...and need to see again." [35]

A.O. Scott wrote, in his review for The New York Times, "Planetary destruction and human extinction happen a half-dozen times every summer. It's rarely this refreshing, though." [36]

Andrew Pulver of The Guardian scored the film most positively, writing, Snowpiercer works brilliantly, the sum of extremely disparate parts that adds up to cinematic excellence." [37]

Joshua Rothkopf of Time Out New York scored the film five out of five stars, writing, "Sprung from a 1982 French graphic novel and bearing its era's trickle-down tensions, Snowpiercer is a headlong rush into conceptual lunacy-but you'll love it anyway." Rothkopf praises Joon-ho by stating, "[...]Bong grabs on to the grungy conventions of postapocalyptic adventure with relish. He serves up claustrophobic action scenes (one largely shot in the dark) and ominous, messianic overtones as the band of rebels makes its way forward." [38]

Lou Lumenick of The New York Post gave the piece high acclaim, writing, "Don't miss it - this is enormously fun visionary filmmaking, with a witty script and a great international cast." He too added, "The beautifully designed train is one of the most memorable in screen history [...]" [39]

David Denby of The New Yorker spoke highly of the piece, stating it to be, "Violent, often absurd, but full of brilliant surprises." While Bong, "Bong keeps the center of the action moving toward the front of the train, a considerable feat of camera placement, choreographed mayhem, and cohesive editing." And noting praise for Nekvasil's production design, "Bong and [Nekvasil], provide them with a series of sybaritic astonishments." [40]

Clarence Tsui of Hollywood Reporter gave a highly-spoken review of the piece, commenting, "Snowpiercer is still an intellectually and artistically superior vehicle to many of the end-of-days futuristic action thrillers out there." Speaking most highly of Bong's film-making, "Bong’s vivid depictions -- aided by Ondrej Nekvasil’s production design, Hong Kyung-pyo’s cinematography and Steve M. Choe’s editing -- are exceptional." [41]

David Thomson of The New Republic remarked positively of the piece by, "The most bracing and liberating thing about Joon-ho Bong's Snowpiercer is not just its lyrical forward motion, but the exuberance with which the film revels in its plot predicament." He furthers this by praising Nekvasil's, "progression of design set-pieces" and Tilda Swinton's performance, "She is the life and soul of this riotous party, and you will be sad to see her disposed of, no matter that Mason’s ghastly manner has earned it." [42]

James Rocchi of wrote that, "If the film has one element that never flags or falters, it's Evans." [43]

Scott Foundas of Variety wrote of the piece, "An enormously ambitious, visually stunning and richly satisfying futuristic epic from the gifted Korean genre director Bong Joon-ho." Foundas added Beltrami’s original score to be "among the generally impeccable craft contributions [of the film]." [44]


Snowpiercer: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by Marco Beltrami
Released August 26, 2013 (2013-08-26)
Genre Film score
Length 55:57
Label CJ E&M Music
Producer Marco Beltrami
Buck Sanders

In May 2012, Marco Beltrami was hired to compose the incidental music for Snowpiercer.[45] In January 2013, a song titled Yona Lights was released on the film's official website in South Korea.[46] On July 12, 2013, during the 007 Fimucité at Tenerife International Film Music Festival in the Canary Islands, a few pieces of the three films composed by Beltrami (Snowpiercer, Soul Surfer and The Wolverine) were selected for the performance.[47] The pieces played for the Snowpiercer part were "This is the Beginning", "Go ahead", "Train riot" and "Ec Yona".

The film's official soundtrack was released in July 2013 in South Korea and the international release date was on August 26, 2013.[48]

Track listing

All music composed by Marco Beltrami.

No. Title Length
1. "This is the End"   3:41
2. "Stomp"   1:00
3. "Preparation"   3:10
4. "Requesting an Upgrade"   3:40
5. "Take the Engine"   2:04
6. "Axe Gang"   2:22
7. "Axe Schlomo"   1:47
8. "Blackout Fight"   4:24
9. "Water Supply"   2:32
10. "Go Ahead"   2:45
11. "Sushi"   1:14
12. "The Seven"   1:00
13. "We Go Forward"   2:05
14. "Steam Car"   2:38
15. "Seoul Train"   2:26
16. "Snow Melt"   2:02
17. "Take My Place"   5:56
18. "Yona Lights"   3:33
19. "This is the Beginning"   4:00
20. "Yona's Theme"   3:38
Total length:


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients and nominees Result
Asia-Pacific Film Festival[49] December 13, 2013 Best Director Joon-ho Bong Won
Best Supporting Actor Kang-ho Song Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Tilda Swinton Nominated
Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Nominated
Best Editing Steve M. Choe, Changju Kim Nominated
Best Production Design Ondrej Nekvasil Nominated
Best Sound Design Tae-young Choi Nominated
Asian Film Awards[50] March 27, 2014 Best Film Nominated
Best Director Joon-ho Bong Nominated
Best Screenwriter Joon-ho Bong, Kelly Masterson Nominated
Best Production Design Ondrej Nekvasil Nominated
Best Costume Designer Catherine George Nominated
Baek Sang Art Awards[51] May 27, 2014 Best Film Nominated
Best Director Bong Joon-ho Won
Best Supporting Actress Go Ah-sung Nominated
Most Popular Actress Go Ah-sung Nominated
Blue Dragon Film Awards[52] November 22, 2013 Best Film Nominated
Best Director Bong Joon-ho Won
Best Supporting Actress Go Ah-sung Nominated
Best Cinematography Kyung-pyo Hong Nominated
Best Production Design Ondrej Nekvasil Nominated
Best Technical Aspect (Editing) Steve M. Choe, Changju Kim Nominated
Best Technical Aspect (Special Effects) Eric Durst Nominated
Grand Bell Awards[53] November 1, 2013 Best Film Nominated
Best Director Bong Joon-ho Won
Best Screenplay Bong Joon-ho, Kelly Masterson Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Go Ah-sung Nominated
Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Nominated
Best Editing Steve M. Choe, Changju Kim Won
Best Art Direction Ondrej Nekvasil Won
South Korean Film Critics Awards[54] November 18, 2013 Best Film Won
Best Director Bong Joon-ho Won
Best Cinematography Hong Kyung-pyo Won
Sydney Film Festival[55] June 15, 2014 Best Film Nominated
World Soundtrack Awards[56] October 25, 2014 Film Composer of the Year Marco Beltrami Pending


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External links[edit]