It is the year 2031. Global warming has frozen the planet, killing millions in its wake. What’s left of humanity has boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that circles the entire world, and keeps necessary conditions inside its walls to sustain life. Lately, Curtis has been receiving cryptic messages that have urged him to start a revolution. The idea of rebellion sat inside Curtis’ brain, but the strange encoded letters hidden inside his protein bars have given him the push that he needs to wage war against the tyrannical system that has been enforced on the train. While he and dozens of others starve, the rich upper class lives lavishly at the head of the vehicle, unaware and uncaring of the filth that their peers call shelter. However, the inhabitants of the tail end have had their fill of mistreatment, and are ready to unify and push forward, until they’ve reached the head of the train, where change and peace lie.
Together, the tail passengers make their way through the gates to the head of the train. They make a quick pit stop at the prison area to bust out Nam, a man known for his ability to hijack security, a truly beneficial trait in their time of need. Curtis and his friends Edgar, Tanya, Gilliam, and others, hope to recruit Nam to their cause, and use his skills to help them reach the front. Although reluctant at first, Nam accepts the groups’ proposition, as long as he gets one rock of Kronole, a drug made from industrial waste, for every gate he opens along the way. He also refuses to go any further without his daughter, Yona, at his side. Her strengths prove useful as well when they come to light.
There’s a running theme of body parts that’s carried throughout this bloody achievement from director Bong Joon Ho. Those who know him from his previous work THE HOST will not be disappointed, as this feature contains a nice balance of devastation and well-timed humor as its predecessor. The motifs of hands, feet, tails, arms, and so on, make a consistent appearance throughout the film. Luckily, these ideas are tied in well, so they don’t stand out like well, sore thumbs. The idea of a head of a body as the most important and most in need of nurture part serves well as a metaphor for the class division that occurs once the train is occupied. The feet are often disregarded and disappear from thought, just as the working class and others less fortunate are often forgotten by those who rest comfortably on the shoulders of society. After all, why should the rich give any thought to the poor when their lives are so carefree? However, as the movie goes on, it soon becomes clear that all body parts equally make up the whole form, and one appendage is just as important and affective as the next. In fact, an important question that is asked is whether or not it is better to lose a limb, if it makes for a more honorable person?
The message gets a little muddied at the end of the film, but overall, SNOWPIERCER is an innovative, original apocalypse piece that stands a foot above the rest of the end-of-the-world scenarios simply because it is so different. Instead of zombies turning mankind into mindless drones, or a fatal disease wiping out the majority of the population, this film opts for global warming: a more realistic and relatable cause for the end of times. It’s much more likely that humanity will destroy itself through vast consumption and the thinning of the ozone layer than turning into the undead and biting one another. On another note, SNOWPIERCER brings up a lot of interesting issues, like the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, and and how advantageous that can be for the more fortunate in trying circumstances. We like to think that we’re so civilized, but if we were all forced to live on a single moving unit for the rest of our lives, would we honestly divide up our rations evenly? Also, once lines have been drawn, is it better to stay safe and remain in “our place”, or rock the boat and revolt? Is it still worth it to fight the system if there’s heavy casualties on both sides? One thing in this depiction of the future’s for sure: in the end, it’s the feet, not the head, that guide humanity to a new world. After all, they’re what the body resides on.