Earth's scientists spray a compound into the atmosphere to combat the global warming crisis. It works all too well, sending Earth into an ice age and killing almost everyone and everything on the planet. The only survivors live on a super-train constructed by an eccentric billionaire before the ice age: it circles the planet, never stopping, powered by a nearly mythological Engine. Wealthy first class passengers live in the front of the train, surrounded by luxury and warmth; the dregs of this closed, self-sustaining society are packed into the train's tail, living in filth and squalor, drinking water recycled from first class's waste. If the train ever stops, if anyone tries to escape to the world outside, they'll freeze to death. They've been living like this for seventeen years.
From time to time, as you might imagine, the folks in the tail of the train revolt against their treatment. All revolutions thus far have failed. But this time, Curtis (Chris Evans, very un-Captain America-y) is determined to make it to the front, supported by his young buddy Edgar (Jamie Bell), the tail section's de facto leader Gilliam (John Hurt) and Tanya (Octavia Spencer) whose young son has been taken away from her for possibly nefarious purposes. Grimly, violently, the uprising moves up through the train cars, but every car taken - prison car, food processing, water reclamation - only affects the cars behind and doesn't hurt the greater luxury towards the front.
I'm doing a terrible job of describing this movie but really, Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho (who also did The Host, which I loved) is a great, post-apocalyptic science fiction flick. The train is wonderfully imagined, nightmarish and clever like something Terry Gilliam might have come up with (and has inspired me to watch Brazil, Time Bandits, etc. again soon). Tilda Swinton, who keeps order amongst the lower classes, steals every scene she's in. The ending of the movie is probably not what many viewers would have wanted - dire but hopeful and open-ended - but I think it seems to fit. I don't think Snowpiercer got much of a theater audience but I hope it finds some legs in at-home viewing.
12 hours ago