Netflix did a shuffle up their streaming selection recently and one of the new films got my attention, Snowpiercer. I’ve heard a few vaguely positive things about it and the summary was interesting enough that I gave it a shot. That turned out to be a good decision as Snowpiercer is a very good film, so let’s jump into it.
The set up is pretty straightforward. Humanity has recognized the threat that global warming presents and has come up with a solution. The only problem is that the solution worked too well and it’s heralded a new Ice Age. The remnants of humanity still exist on a train with a highly stratified class structure. Our protagonist belongs to the lowest class and seeks to rectify this injustice. The film is a superb example of allegorical science fiction with excellent visuals that I highly recommend.
With me so far? Cool, let’s get into the gritty, spoiler-laced details. If you care about spoilers and are interested in watching this film, I suggest you stop reading this and go watch it. If you don’t care about spoilers or have already seen it, keep reading.
This film is unabashedly leftist in orientation. The conflict is class conflict and revolution. Most of the film is rather self explanatory on this part, there’s little to be said beyond a proletarian revolution. The climax however is what makes it stand out. The introduction of possibility of leaving the system, as well as the inherent corruption of the system gives the film much of its weight. In a lot of ways it’s similar to V for Vendetta, the difference between authoritarianism that is keeping people alive versus anarchism and seemingly certain possibility of extinction. The main difference is that the conflict is far more resonant*.
Another part of the beauty is how simple the allegory is. While there are certainly layers to the film, the main points are fairly simple. This eliminates the distraction of getting tied up in the specifics of the situation and applies a certain degree of universality to the situation. A universality that is rather easy to achieve given it’s commentary on late capitalism.
The characters aren’t exactly the most three dimensional, but there is a certain level of depth that can be appreciated. The only exception to this is the main enemy fighter, whose name I don’t believe is ever actually given in the film, as he acts more as a force of nature to keep conflict happening. A bit of characterization, or at least a name would have been appreciated. Even though at the same time you can argue that he’s meant to symbolize those who fight to preserve the system.
Speaking of conflict, the fight scenes in this film are very entertaining. It uses the setting of the train and humanity’s scarcity to create some interesting set pieces that are well executed. This is about all I can ask for, so no complaints.
The visuals in general are well done. Again, the train creates some novel sights. My one complaint was the two times that seeing something outside of the train was important to the plot: the Revolt of the Seven and the plane at Yekaterina Bridge, you really have to squint in order to see what they’re talking about. While this does tie into the aesthetic, it could’ve have been weakened for clarity. Also, the surrender or die tattoo gag is probably one of my favorite visual gags in recent memory.
The sound is fine. All of the sound effects work like you expect them to and the music didn’t stand out to me. As I normally don’t notice music in films unless it’s either really good or really bad, this is again, fine.
Again, I would highly recommend this film and give it a 4/5 stars. Till next time
*This includes the graphic novel