Are Social Classes on the Right Track? : A review of “Snowpiercer” (2013)

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“Revolt is the right of the people.”
–John Locke

The action-packed and thought-provoking Snowpiercer (2013) has just been added to Netflix. If you haven’t seen this dystopian science fiction thriller — based on the French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette from 1982 — you are missing out on a film that has its finger on the pulse of American politics right now! South Korean director Joon-ho Bong has adapted the comic into an English-speaking film that criticizes both the class system and the distribution of wealth in a capitalist society.

Just like an Alfred Hitchcock film, a train motif is utilized as a phallic symbol of male power and aggression. In Joon-ho Bong’s film, the train called Snowpiercer becomes humanity’s last means of survival when a climate change experiment kills off most of the life on earth. This metal monster traverses the frozen no-man’s land with passengers that become more weary and restless as the days go on. When the lower class get pushed to their breaking point, Snowpiercer becomes a time-bomb that the rich passengers are not prepared for.


One impoverished individual named Curtis (Chris Evans of The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) plans to rise up and overthrow the oppressive system of government on board the train. He along with Gilliam (The Elephant Man and V for Vendetta’s John Hurt) and Tanya (The Help’s Octavia Spencer) will organize an uprising. They begin to make their way from the tail to the engine, where the mysterious Wilford — I won’t spoil a great cameo — is rumored to reside. The journey is perilous as they will have to fight past Mason’s (Tilda Swinton’s) soldiers in order to reach Wilford and take the power back.

Snowpiercer is a very controversial film. At first glace it seems to be saying that violent, brutal revolution is the only way to achieve radical social change. In order to advance through the train closer to the engine, our protagonists maim and kill with knives, hatchets, pipes, crowbars, etc. However, this can be justified as self-defense because their government flat-out murders its lower class citizens as a means of population control.  If liberty and a chance for social mobility were taken away from you, would you accept the status quo? If the power structure threatened you and your family with sharp metallic objects and you did nothing, would you be a good citizen? Or would you fight fire with fire?


Ideally we should vote for leaders that are going to represent the people and foster a sense of community. When civil negotiations break down, unfortunately a need to break out the weapons occurs. We have seen this before with the American Civil War. Basic, human, inalienable rights were being taken away by force and many lost their lives over it. Joon-ho Bong is looking at a sort of capitalist cannibalism that America has become almost proud of. If this is what he sees from a world-politics standpoint, something is certainly wrong with our system.

Granted American life in 2014 is not as extreme as a post-apocalyptic movie, but the implication is very unsettling to say the least. Snowpiercer is more of a cautionary tale than anything. Joon-ho Bong is suggesting that when people are backed into a corner there is a real danger of extreme violence which could explode. The filmmaker is not so much endorsing violent political revolution as he is providing sci-fi fans and fans of political thrillers with a chilling what-if predicament.


Snowpiercer perhaps may not be your cup of tea, if you are squeamish about graphic on-screen violence. But, if you can handle the blood, you should give the film a shot to see a dramatized microcosm of America. We are in danger of becoming a cramped train where the greedy 1%-ers enjoy nightclubs and lavish restaurants while the poor in the tail section eat black sludge-looking ‘protein bars’ and freeze to death. Remember Rhode Island’s “tent city”? How much longer will the 99% — the rest of us — put up with unfair treatment before things get scary?

I suggest everyone take a closer look at the current state of the class system and the political arena. At the local level and national level we are in danger. We are not engaged in actual physical combat, but our economy is bleeding out severely and the distribution of wealth is a joke.

I encourage fans of film and critical thinkers alike, take a 2-hour train ride with Joon-ho Bong. Then look at your leaders and ask yourselves:

Are you being led or simply being led on?

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