Written by Anne Dang
Graphic by Sunshine Leeuwon
━━━━ THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS SPOILERS ━━━━
The 2013 film Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon Ho, is about humanity’s last survivors living in a circumnavigational train after a failed attempt to stop global warming has frozen the Earth into a new ice age. This grim sci-fi film presents the oppression and corruption of capitalism as the main character Curtis and his comrades fight their way to the front of the train in order to take down Wilford, the train’s creator. The train is sectioned off into three parts representing different socioeconomic classes: the tail houses the poor, the middle belongs to the working class, and the front is reserved for the elite. The grimness of humanity is shown through muted colored scenes of the poor living environment of the tail section. The tail end occupants barely have enough space for bunk beds, their clothes are tattered, and their only source of food is protein blocks. They are constantly monitored and ordered by soldiers from the front to give up any skilled people or children whom the elite need for labor. Only a few lucky enough to escape the exploitation and harsh conditions can live in comfort at the front.
I enjoyed watching the film because I like movies that prompt you to think and evaluate the world we live in, and I would recommend it for folks who like to watch insightful sci-fi films. Personally, the highlight of the film was the ending. The last scenes where Yona and Timmy emerge from the ruins and stumble into the snowy, vast mountains leaves much to personal interpretation. This film does a fantastic job of offering an abolitionist perspective that differs from the typical “critique of capitalism” kind of films in Hollywood. Instead of having the protagonist become the new leader and try to change and reform the system from within, Curtis and Namgoong decide to protect Yona and Timmy—essentially humanity’s future—from the explosion of the train. Curtis comes to the realization that as long as the train runs, this class system where children are exploited for their labor so the elite can live in luxury will continue to exist. Even if Curtis had accepted Wilford’s offer to become the next leader, the train would have kept running as long as it had people, specifically children, to exploit. The only way to eradicate corruption is to destroy the system completely.
What happens to Yona and Timmy is unclear as the film ends right when a polar bear is shown in the distance. However, I have much hope that they will live in a better world without the burdens of capitalism now that the train no longer exists. My criticism of this film is that I wish the protagonist was a person of color rather than a white man because the film contributes to the white savior trope commonly seen in Hollywood films. I also would’ve loved to see more scenes of the other characters such as Tanya since the film mainly focused on Curtis and his backstory.