It’s the end of the world as we know it… and White supremacist capitalism still exists. That is the premise of this Korean-Czech, English-language sci-fi thriller: A world in which a miniature version of the haves and have-nots keeps the only form of “order” that anyone is used to.
In a dystopian 2014, global warming has become such a real threat that, in an attempt to delay or prevent it, climate engineers inadvertently created a permanet ice age. Visionary railway engineer Wilford (Ed Harris), who foresaw the potentially disastrous results of this experiment, built a revolutionary train with every single accommodation anyone could possibly need. By 2031, every inch the planet is frozen and anyone still alive is living as an inhabitant his train, the Snowpiercer, named such because it is able to break through the thick walls of ice covering the planet.
The poor who couldn’t afford to buy a ticket and were lucky enough to be have been chosen for a place on the train learn quickly that they are only there to balance out the classism on the train and provide the elites with someone to feel superior to and bodies to do the work that they don’t want to. While the affluent, at the head of the train, enjoy the freshest foods and most lavish creature comforts, those in the tail end of the train are dirty, tired, cramped, and malnourished, not to mention routinely harassed by the authorities.
Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) is a young man from the tail section who is tired of suffering and seeing his friends suffer. Together with his mentor, Gilliam (John Hurt), they hatch a plot to leave their section and lead everyone to liberation. Although many rebellions had arisen before, Curtis is convinced that this time will be different and he inspires the entire tail section to want more. Together with his best friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), their neighbour Tanya (Octavia Spencer), and the other disgruntled and frightened tail section inhabitants, the “scum” of Snowpiercer launch a new rebellion which, with the help of security specialist Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho) and and his clairvoyant daughter, Yona (Go Ah-sung) is more successful than the elites and their henchmen could have ever imagined.
But what awaits Curtis at the head of the train isn’t the liberation he thought. It’s a choice, a test. You see, although the tail section of the train is fairly racially diverse, the head is not. The blinding whiteness of the people and the surroundings of the head is disturbingly vivid and unavoidable. Although this doesn’t have bearing on the plot of Snowpiercer, is a helpful to understanding our protagonist. When Curtis sees all that could be his, like every white man who’s ever whined about the system or claimed he didn’t have white privilege because he’s poor, he is quickly talked into silence and even consent, tempted by luxuries which supersede any love and loyalty he claimed to have for his friends. Curtis is a glaring example of why those who want to be more comfortable with oppression rather than seek ways to effectively dismantle the tools of their oppressor while never make effective leaders, and cannot lead a rebellion to anything other than destruction.
Again, Snowpiercer is simply displaying a micro version of the groteque classism and capitalism that we are all currently living in, a world were so many suffer and die unnecessarily in order for a few to be more than comfortable. The film is only shocking should one forget that this is ly art imitating life.
Based on the French graphic novel La Transperceniege by Jacques Lob, Snowpiercer gives us a whole new world, with the same old rules. Yona is ultimately the hero of Snowpiercer, because although she had a life of affluence prior to her and her father’s incarceration, she understands the toxicity of life on the train, that buying into the system which oppresses you can never be liberating, and anything that is built on and flourishes on the pain and exploitation of others must be weeded out, so that something new and possibly better has a chance to bloom.
I give this one 4.5 stars.