Oh this movie… It has been a while since I have seen a movie that has given me such strong opinions. I have to thank Netflix for bringing this gem to my eyes. I’m browsing through it and all the sudden I see a movie starring Chris Evans about the post apocalyptic world where all of society has now been reduced to people riding on a single train, through the frozen tundra, across the entire Earth… Holy hell this is something that I have to watch. So I watched it and to my surprise I had a feeling of exhilarating love as well as head banging anger. While the overall premise and message of the story is one of pure amazement, some of the questions that the story raises just drives me insane that I cannot help but bitch about it and seeing as how that is my job for this site, I guess I can take it as a good thing.
Set in the distant future, the threat of Global Warming has become a serious issue. But society seems to rejoice as this new experimental mixture to counteract the effects of global climate change. However sadly this has a different effect and has left the earth in unlivable below freezing temperatures where body parts can freeze frozen solid within a matter of minutes. The only known survivors of planet Earth were those who were able to board a luxury train ran by an enigmatic man named Wilford. Seventeen years have passed since the Earth cooled and now the train carrying the last remnants of humanity has fallen into a severe sense of classism with the people at the front of the train being rich, well fed aristocrats and the people in the back treated like lowly peasants. The protagonist Curtis (Chris Evans) along with the leader of the people in the back of the train Gilliam (John Hurt) lead a revolution as the people in the back attempt to fight their way to the front of the train and confront the enigmatic conductor.
This movie looks absolutely amazing and the cast performs their roles flawlessly. You have a feeling of clausterphobia throughout the film as you imagine being trapped on a tiny metal tube for years on end. The people in the rear car look dirty, disgusting, and impoverished while the people from the front of the car look vibrant, colorful, and lively. The world outside looks bright, yet horrifying as you see how the world around them froze and died. I love the touch of realism that was presented in the train to that people from different countries, nationalities, and races are presented with American, British, French, and Korean being the most prevalent. It should also be worth noting that it would seem that race has little to nothing to do with the haves and have nots that the world attempts to provide, and instead is merely decided on who happened to buy tickets for the train, and when. Good to know that in the wake of the end of the world, racism is no longer a thing, but classism is still alive and well.
There is also not a weak performance in the entire cast. Each person plays their roles perfectly in this film. The true standouts have to be Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho who steal the show as Curtis and Namgoong Minsu respectfully. A major plus to this film to be sure.
Commentary on Classism
As I stated before, this movie is a conflict sociologists wet dream and I can see it being apart of any course curriculum when teaching these theories. The whole film operates on this idea that society has to have a certain order and certain way of things in order for it to properly function, which is concentrated and shown through this train barreling through this tundra waste land.
The idea that there needs to be a natural order and question just how much of our destiny and our everyday thought is either cultivated for us by the machine is something interesting to behold and is shown off in this movie to great effect.
While I do question some of the means in which this movie does this, which I will get to in a moment. The overall message that the movie is attempting to send is quite clear and portrayed in a subtle yet overarching theme.
I can understand the commentary that the movie is trying to make about classism and the haves and have nots, hell the movie is a sociologists wet dream. But when you stop and think about it, there are a lot of basic questions that need to be asked that movie just cannot answer with any logical response.
For instance, this train continues to function just fine after 17 years of continuous operation. Which is fine, the movie even has a scene to describe this phenomenon even if it is in hand wave exposition. But what about the outside world? Trains are not like cars or planes, they have a track that they need to remain on constantly. You are telling me that this outside world has not had a single item dislodge a piece of the track? A piece of debris destroy one of the many bridges that supports this train? It would be understandable if you had a crew of people who brave the harsh environment outside of the train for several minutes in order to make necessary repairs or risk freezing to death, but I find it hard to suspend enough disbelief to see a train being able to function for 17 years straight without some kind of maintenance occurring on the outside world.
Second and more importantly, why even have these poor rear of the train passengers? Wilford says that there needs to be a natural order of things with haves and have nots. But all things considered, if you didn’t have these rear of the train passengers at all then you would have less train cars to deal with OR more room for the people at the front of the car. They wouldn’t need to make those nasty protein bars made out of insects, thus another car dealt with, and the people of the train could live in peace, thus no need for SWAT equipped security. It seems that these people who are forced to live in extreme poverty should have not been allowed on the train to begin with let alone allowed to live all these years to enforce some sort of strange sociological order.
The movie does attempt to make the statement that the human race needs to have this sort of class system for them to be able to properly function in this tiny metal tube traveling around the world… But I do not feel like that is the case and even if it were the case, you have the tools and the technology to enforce a more natural order of things where all members of the train can live in relative comfort but have certain aristocratic society. You don’t need to force half of your train population to live in absolute destitution and perpetuate rebellion as a means of keeping the natural order of things.
Snowpiercer is a magnificent movie. Its sociological aspects and a look into the human psyche are a daunting, yet well executed task. The film does raise a lot of questions when it comes to the logic of how the film is presented, but I am able to look past it to what is by all accounts a great movie and something that everyone should see as soon as possible.
Final Score 4/5
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