Some reviewing the 1080p Blu-Ray transfer for Snowpiercer might fall into the trap of dissing it based on the film’s overall darkness and graininess, but Anchor Bay follows Bong’s every intention in taking the movie to home media. The back of the train is grungy but still sharp and detailed throughout, from the individual specks of grime that coat every tail dweller to the dull sheen of their metal cots. And without giving any spoilers, even as the scenery changes drastically, the transfer remains immaculate throughout, employing a broad color palette while maintaining incredible levels of detail.
As for the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, it’s a just about flawless listen, with the blockbuster sound effects, from the train roaring along its track to the brutal staccato bursts of gunfire, dominating but Marco Beltrami’s engaging music also getting a mighty showcase. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout, and there are really no issues to speak of with this track. One wishes Anchor Bay had committed to a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, but it’s hard to fault what’s on offer.
In terms of special features, the Snowpiercer Blu-Ray offers an unusually packed array of extras spread across two discs. These include:
- Audio Commentary (Disc One)
- Transperceneige: From the Blank Page to the Black Screen — A Documentary by Jésus Castro-Ortega (Disc Two, 54:27)
- The Birth of Snowpiercer (Disc Two, 15:09)
- The Characters (Disc Two, 13:08)
- Animated Prologue (Disc Two, 4:31)
- Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer (Disc Two, 4:40)
- The Train Brought to Life: Behind the Scenes of a Special Screening (8:06)
- Concept Art Galleries
In an offbeat move, Anchor Bay recruited a lineup of critics to discuss Snowpiercer, which makes for an unusual but terrific and involving track. Geek Nation’s Scott Weinberg plays host to MSN Movies’ James Rocchi, the Austin Chronicle’s William Goss, Hitfix.com’s Drew Mcweeny, Deadline’s Jennifer Yamato, and Movies.com’s Peter S. Hall. Those six cinephiles all have a lot to say about Snowpiercer, from its score to its characters to its visuals. Essentially every aspect of Snowpiercer comes up in the conversation, and the critics’ insights made me look at the film in a completely different light.
“Transperceneige” is a full-fledged documentary, examining the winding path that Snowpiercer took from its origins as a French graphic novel to its arrival on the big screen. The focus is split between the original work and Bong’s take, with lots of images from the graphic novel as well as footage from the production and Bong’s explanation of his personal love of the story. In particular, the interviews that dig into different characters from the film are sure to fascinate viewers.
“The Birth of Snowpiercer” is a tighter, more run-of-the-mill behind-the-scenes piece that examines Bong’s direction, the set design and art direction, and the challenges faced by the cast and crew in making what was an especially physically intense film, among other aspects of the production. For fans who lack the patience to sit through the expanded documentary, this should be a must-watch.
As its name suggests, “The Characters” is all about analyzing the various individuals who pop up throughout the film, with a particular focus on Curtis and Mason. The actors show up to add their insights, and clips from the film inform what they say about their characters. All in all, it doesn’t dig as deep as it could or explore enough perspectives, but “The Characters” is still an ultimately satisfying extra.
“Animated Prologue” is exactly what it sounds like. It explores some of the past revolutions and aspects of the story that Snowpiercer only mentions fleetingly.
“Chris Evans & Tilda Swinton on Snowpiercer” brings together the pair as they discuss overarching themes, touch on some interesting facets of their characters and rightly praise Bong’s direction.
Finally, “The Train Brought to Life: Behind the Scenes of a Special Screening” explores a promotional tour for the film that ends with an outdoor screening at the famed Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. It’s not as related to the content of the film as the other special features, but it’s still worth a watch.
Looking at this Blu-Ray release as a whole, Snowpiercer comes highly recommended. The video and audio transfers are both terrific, with the presentation meeting every standard while standing by Bong’s original intentions. The special features are also exemplary, expanding on the director’s vision and providing some tantalizing food for thought for curious viewers of the film. And as for the finished product itself, it bears repeating that Bong’s Snowpiercer is one of the most exciting sci-fi movies of the year. Its vision is unusually complex and interesting, and the stylized way in which Bong presents it needs to be seen to be understood. Check out Snowpiercer as soon as you can – it’s sure to be the center of many “Worst Oscar Snubs” pieces come January, but being able to experience a movie as unconditionally cool as this is really award enough.
Few films from this year will match Snowpiercer's exhilarating, original story and superb performances, but it's possible that none of them will match Bong's astoundingly ambitious vision.