If Hieronymus Bosch were alive and making movies, his name might be Bong Joon-ho, and “Snowpiercer” might be his “Last Judgment.” With this ferocious science-fiction saga — a visionary action flick studded with dark, rapturous detail — the Korean filmmaker ascends to the master level of commercial filmmaking, worthy of mention alongside Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, and Alfonso Cuaron. Like them, Bong is able to yoke the mechanics of narrative cinema — sound and vision, craft and conscience — to ends that, at their best, carry a thrilling allegorical punch.
The film takes place entirely on a train, but not one that’s bound for glory. It’s 17 years after scientists tried to control global warming and failed miserably, plunging the planet into a new Ice Age. The remains of humanity have taken refuge on the title conveyance, a seemingly endless bullet-train, built by an enigmatic industrial Noah named Wilford, that annually circumnavigates the globe. The rich folk live at the front in swank compartments with excellent catering. The poor folks live in squalor at the rear.