Earlier this week, I reviewed The Purge: Anarchy, a near-future dystopian allegory for the dangers of classism. Today, I review Snowpiercer, a near-future dystopian allegory for the dangers of classism. However, whereas Anarchy was an above-average look at what is essentially modern society with one tweak to emphasize where modern trends are leading us, Snowpiercer is a scathing look at modern class structure as framed in a sci-fi scenario that perfectly encapsulates the inherent flaws and horrors of a class-based society. And it is brilliant!
In order to halt global warming, scientists in the not-so-distant future released a chemical into the air in order to cool down the atmosphere. However, this backfired to create a global ice age, killing the entirety of the Earth’s population except for the passengers on a perpetually powered train built by an eccentric billionaire who predicted this strange turn of events. Flash forward eighteen years later, and Curtis is a resident of the tail car, where the poorest passengers lived and are now the underclass in the microcosm of train society. Curtis mounts and leads a revolt of the underclass so as to reach the front of the train to confront their billionaire overlord and seize control of the train themselves. This plot is in no ways subtle, but its execution is superb.
See, where Snowpiercer differs substantially from Anarchy is that not only is its premise highly allegorical, but everything about the damn script is allegorical. The eclectic cast of characters spanning all walks of life, as represented by different train cars, all play their role in what becomes a very compelling analysis of how class intersects with such things as policing, the education system, the distribution and quality of food supplies, drug addiction, and the excesses of the upper and middle classes, just to name a few. Since all is told from Curtis’s perspective, the film is cynical and oozes with disgust for such gross inequality, an incredibly resonant message in light of not only American inequalities, but global ones as well.
And all of this is built into a beautifully directed film. Director Bong Joon-ho really knows how to frame a shot, as every scene ends up looking like a well-composed painting. The use of color, lighting, and object placement really makes every little thing pop out at the viewer, and none of that is diminished even in the incredibly well-executed action sequences. One would think that the limitations of a scene taking place aboard a train car would make action constrained and hence dull, but Bong turns that supposed weakness into a strength, playing with the crowded nature of the train car to create a catalog of memorable action scenes.
I’ve heard grumblings that the ending was polarizing (heh, cold pun) to some viewers, but I felt that it fit perfectly with the film’s anti-classist message. Without spoiling what it is, let’s just say that it is the bow on top of a masterfully wrapped present. Between its intellectual message, strong storytelling chops, frantic action, and beautiful cinematography, Snowpiercer is a film that deserves your attention, and absolutely should not be overlooked. If you haven’t already, watch this movie. You won’t regret it.
What are your leaning in the class inequality debate? Leave your flame war in the comments below.