Chris Evans as Curtis Everett
About the character of Curtis, Evans said, "I mean, for me, the tail section is, I think thatís Curtis. I think thatís who he is. The tail section is hard; itís grinding; itís tough; itís real. So thatís where I had the most fun. Back there."
Casting directors suggested Evans to Bong, who initially had misconceptions of Evans before they met due to the "caricature of the American all muscle", but quickly departed from that notion and described Evans as "he's actually very sensitive and has a quiet and introverted side. Heís a very, very smart person, and heís a director."
Bong was introduced to the films Puncture and Sunshine where he described Evans' performances as showing his "sensitive acting abilities". Bong and Evans spent months talking about the dialogue, and Bong received help from the cast and crew including Evans due to it being his first English language film.
Bong said that for the role of Curtis, hiding Evans' muscular physique was the most difficult thing about working with the actor. Explaining, "Heís supposed to be in the poor tail section for 17 years, eating only protein blocks, and it was tricky to hide all of that muscle mass with costume and make-up."
On whether he was surprised by the fan response, Evans said, "Iíve been surprised about everything about this movie. Every movie you make, you hope people will enjoy it, but this movie has surpassed all of my expectations across the board."
Song Kang-ho as Namgoong Minsu
On taking the role, Kang-ho said, "This was the third time I worked with director Bong, and working with director Bong is a wonderful experience. ... this time around, working with the wonderful cast members was a tremendous experience."
Describing Nam, Bong said, "He sets up the ending, because he has a vision about this world thatís different from Curtisí. He has a desire to go outside of the train." On the name of the character, Bong stated, "I was looking for a name that would be most difficult for foreigners to pronounce. Namgoong Ö it is difficult. There are some name-related jokes in the film."
Kang-ho was the only Korean speaking actor in the film, and although as difficult and uncanny as it was, he expressed, "but at the same time, it was very refreshing and fun to do."
Tilda Swinton as Mason
About the character, Swinton said, "Mason is a pretty monstrous construct so we felt we were dealing with extremes, but the truth was that we didn't have to go that far. Look at Hitler with his dyed black hair and Gaddafi with handmade medals stuck on his jacket."
Swinton prepared for the role by studying clowning politicians throughout history, and Mason is, in Swinton's words, "a complete smash cut of all the monstrous, maniacal, political clowns." Swinton added that the character is a mix of Margaret Thatcher, Colonel Gaddafi, Adolf Hitler and Silvio Berlusconi.
The Yorkshire accent Swinton uses is based on someone from her early life who had the accent and to her, "was an early example of authority". Tilda and Bong met at the Cannes Film Festival when We Need to Talk About Kevin played and both wanted to work together. In one original scenario, Mason was a middle-aged man and first mentioned as "peaceful," so Bong changed it and offered it to Swinton.
Bong added, "I originally talked to John C. Reilly about playing Mason." On Mason's appearance, Bong stated, "Tilda actually wanted to take the look further and I had to pull her back. She at the time really wanted to transform herself and look different than she ever looked before. I was all for it. Obviously there was something that started the whole look."
Additionally Swinton stated, "As we were playing we had these ideas, like fantastic pendulous breasts ... And Jamie Bell loved wearing them of course. We have a picture of him. Our crew picture involves Bell wearing Masonís breasts."
Bong was inspired by a photo Ondrej Nekvasil found of a lady inside the National Museum of Natural History, and he showed the image to Tilda who "loved it" The appearance of Mason was based on Roxie Collie Laybourne.
In 2014, an experiment to counteract global warming causes an ice age that kills nearly all life on Earth.
Male Reporter: Good morning. On this day, July 1st, 2014, at this hour, 0600, we are at the first airport in the world...
Female Reporter: The topic of so much controversy over the past seven years has continued development. Protests from environmental groups and a number of developing countries continue. But in accordance with...
Male Reporter: It had been claimed that CW7 is the answer to global warning. And we are witnessing it...
Female Reporter: Leaders argue that global warming can no longer be ignored. Today, 79 countries will begin dispersing CW7 into the upper layers of the atmosphere.
Male Reporter: ...In the upper layers of the atmosphere, and surprisingly bring down the average global temperature to the finest levels. It is just a day away that...
Female Reporter: ...upper layers of the atmosphere. According to scientists, the artificial cooling substance, CW7, will succeed in bringing average global temperatures down to manageable levels, as the revolutionary solution to mankind's warming of the planet.
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. The precious few who boarded the rattling ark are humanity's last survivors.
It's now 2031 and a class system is installed, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and the poor inhabiting the tail.
Edgar: What does steak taste like again? I had it once, but I can't remember.
Curtis: If you can't remember then it's better to forget.
Edgar: What does it smell like when it's cooked? It must emanate around the place.
The tail inhabitants prepare for the latest in a series of rebellions. Curtis is the reluctant leader. Edgar is Curtis' close friend and second-in-command. After retrieving a message hidden in a protein block, Curtis shows it to Gilliam, the spiritual leader of the tail section. The message contains a name - N-A-M.
Curtis: We have four seconds to go through three gates and bust Nam out.
Gilliam: Then Nam gets us the rest of the way. Our fate depends on this man.
Curtis: Yeah. If we can get to cooperate he can take all the way to the front of the train.
Gilliam: Very front section?
Curtis: Yeah. From here right to the front of the train. Everything in one stroke. We control the engine, we control the world. Without that, we have nothing. All past revolutions have failed because they couldn't take the engine.
Gilliam: What are you saying?
Curtis: This time we take the engine.
Gilliam: Then what?
Curtis: We kill them.
Curtis: You should run the train now, not Wilford.
Gilliam: I am a shadow of my former shadow. My day was decades ago.
Guards arrive periodically to deliver protein blocks for food, and take some of the children. During this current visit they take the son (Timmy) of Tanya, and the daughter of Andrew, who bursts into an uproar, attacking the guards to get back his daughter, Amy.
During the scuffle, a shoe is thrown, striking Claude, a stocky woman and personal assistant to Wilford. She is the one who came to collect the two children. As punishment, they stick Andrew's arm out of the train into the freezing wind for seven minutes.
Mason arrives to lecture the tail section about order. Mason is Wilford's right hand, the second in command on the train and has been the spokesperson for Wilford for the past 17 years. She's like a female Hitler. She has the shoe brought forward.
Mason: Order is the barrier that holds back the frozen death. We must all of us on this train of life remain in our allotted station. We must each of us, occupy our preordained particular position.
She places the shoe on Andrew's head . . .
Mason: Would you wear a shoe on your head? Of course you wouldn't wear a shoe on your head. A shoe doesn't belong on your head. A shoe belongs on your foot. A hat belongs on your head. I am a hat. You are a shoe. I belong on the head. You belong on the foot. Yes? So it is. In the beginning, order was prescribed by your ticket: First Class, Economy, and freeloaders like you. Eternal order is prescribed by the Sacred Engine.
All things flow from the Sacred Engine, all things in their place, all passengers in their section. All water flowing, all heat rising, pays homage to the Sacred Engine, in its own particular preordained position. So it is. Now, as in the beginning, I belong to the front. You belong to the tail. When the foot seeks the place of the head, the sacred line is crossed. Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.
After her speech, they bring in Andrew's arm from the cold and it is frozen solid. Mason's henchmen shatter his frozen arm with a sledge hammer.
A moment later, Gillian appears from the back and tends to the injured Andrews. He instructs Mason that he and Wilford need to talk.
The revolt leaders finally realize that the guards are out of bullets, used up during the last revolt. During the guardsí next visit, Curtis Everett contemplates the moment to strike. He sees the gate doors are about to close.
Curtis rushes up to a guard and places the gun barrel to his own head, but the guard has no ammo.
Edgar: They've got no bullets!
Curtis leads the tail inhabitants in revolt.
They force 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.
Curtis: I'm gonna make this real simple for you. You help us, you get your drug. If not, we put you back where we found you. What'll it be, asshole?