Acton Institute Powerblog

How to Understand Snowpiercer

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Snowpiercer is the most political film of the year. And likely to be one of the most misunderstood.

Snowpiercer is also very weird, which you’d probably expect from a South Korean sci-fi post-apocalyptic action film based on a French graphic novel that stars Chris Evans (Captain America) and Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia).

The basic plot of the movie is that in 2014, an experiment to counteract global warming (which is based on a real plan) causes an ice age that kills nearly all life on Earth. The only survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive super-luxury train, powered by a perpetual-motion engine, that travels on a globe-spanning track. A class system is installed, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and the poor inhabiting the tail.

When I say this is a “political” film I mean it in the Platonic sense of an ideal polis based on the best form of government that leads to the common good. Snowpiercer is an extended political fable about the polis, albeit one that includes scenes of hatchet fights between people carrying torches and people wearing night-vision goggles.

Last week, Snowpiercer was released in eight theaters in selected cities and on video-on-demand. Because of the rave critical reviews (it’s currently at 95% approval on Rotten Tomatoes), it’ll like be going into wider release.

If you haven’t seen it yet, lower your expectations. While visually interesting and, at times, thought-provoking, it doesn’t live up to the hype (director Bong Joon-ho’s 2006 monster flick The Host was similarly over-praised).You should also be forewarned that it’s rated R for violence, language, and drug content.

If you have seen it and still wondering what exactly it was about, read on.

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t like spoilers, stop reading now. Seriously. Massive spoilers below. Stop reading now. Don’t say your weren’t warned.

There are two ways to understand Snowpiercer, the right way and the wrong way. Here’s your guide to both:

The wrong way: As an Occupy Wall Street-style parable about economic inequality.

The right way: As a parable of Darwinian economic and political determinism.

Yes, Snowpiercer is about class warfare. And yes, it is about economic inequality. But it’s not the parable you may assume.

For starters, there is a complete lack of both economic equality and social mobility because none exists in nature. “Curtis, everyone has their preordained position, and everyone is in their place except you,” says Wilford (Ed Harris).

Curtis isn’t in his position anymore because he still believes concepts such as justice and equality have meaning. What he’s missing, as Wilford makes clear, is that equality doesn’t matter. It’s a Darwinian world and what is needed for survival, says Wilford, is balance:

This train is a complete ecosystem which must respect the balance. Air, water, food, people. Everything must be regulated. For this, it was sometimes necessary use more radical solutions.

Wilford goes on to explain that the balance can only be achieved by two ways: Either by natural selection or political manipulation. Over the course of its 18 year history, the train has had three “revolutions” instigated by Wilford and his partner in the back of the train, Gilliam. The two political masterminds understood that they needed to “maintain a balance between anxiety and fear, chaos and horror, for life goes on.”

Class warfare was the ingenious method of maintaining the population. The people in the front of the train can never grown too comfortable, for fear the back might rise up and take their place. And the down-and-out in the back are given just enough hope in a future regime-change that they don’t fall into complete despair.

By having a controlled “revolution” every five years or so, the political manipulators (Wilford and Gilliam) could let the Front and Back kill off just enough people to maintain the balance.

In essence, Wilford and Gilliam accept the validity of Darwinian social determinism, but believe it can be controlled and maintained more “humanely” by implementing a political solution (i.e., planned revolutions that cull the population).


The wrong way: Seeing Curtis as the primary hero.

The right way: Seeing Curtis as the secondary villain.

In the beginning of the film, we identify with Curtis and assume he is the hero since he is championing the ideals the audience believes in, such as equality, fairness, and justice. But by the middle of the film we start getting a different impression of Curtis.

Once he allows his loyal friend Edgar to die so that he can capture Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton), we realize he has too much of the True Revolutionary about him to be heroic. By the end of the movie we start to see him for what he really is: a man who will do almost anything—even eat human babies—in order to ensure his survival.

Ironically, Curtis discovers that survival requires maintaining the status quo. To survive, Wilford tells him, he must become the new leader.  “Without you, Curtis, humanity ceases to exist.”

After briefly considering the option, Curtis decides that maybe Namgoong Minsoo is right. Maybe it is better for humanity to discard their current polis and take a chance on a return to nature.


The wrong way: Thinking Namgoong Minsoo provides a solution.

The right way: Realizing that Namgoong Minsoo is as deluded as Curtis and Wilford.

Namgoong Minsoo is the third way. While Wilford represents the Status Quo and Curtis the Revolutionary Replacement, Minsoo is the Rousseauian anarchist. He doesn’t want to keep the current system and has no illusions that Curtis can offer a better political alternative. Minsoo wants to blow up the system (literally) and return to a Rousseau-style “state of nature.”

This seems reasonable enough until you realize that his “solution” is even more misguided and utopian than the alternatives.


The wrong way: Believing it has a happy ending

The right way: Seeing the ending as ‘Christian’ (in a sense)

After Minsoo destroys and derails the train, only two kids survive. The movie ends with Minsoo’s drug-addled teen daughter and a 5-year-old boy from the back of the train staring at a polar bear.

In an interview about that ending, the film’s director Bong Joon-ho says:

The idea of there being multiple generations of people on this train is a key one. There’s an expression in the film: “train baby.” Those are the two kids that survive, the ones that only knew life on the train. Someone like Curtis or Nam, they lived on Earth, then boarded the train. These kids have never known what it was like to step on the earth. So it’s almost like Neil Armstrong touching down on the Moon when they leave the train for the first time. They have no memory of what it’s like to be on the Earth. For them to procreate, it’s going to take a little time. So, for me, it’s a very hopeful ending. But of course there are so many deaths, and so many sacrifices … it’s not so sweet. But those two kids will spread the human race.

Um, no. No they don’t.

I’m a firm believer in authorial (or directorial) intent, but an ending has to fit with all that has come before. And there is simply no way that those two “train babies” could survive and “spread the human race” in a snow-covered barren wasteland. Nobody could. Bear Grylls, the greatest survivor on the planet, could live an extra day. Maybe. Those kids, however, would be eaten by that polar bear within five minutes.

So the end of the movie is really about how one political ideal tried to trump another, while a third destroyed both. And then everyone was eaten by polar bears.

Surprisingly, this makes for a very Christian ending. Snowpiercer is certainly not a “Christian” movie, but it could be considered Christian in the sense that it tells a parable that ends with a Christian truth: there can be no redemption without the Redeemer.


The wrong way: Taking this South Korean sci-fi post-apocalyptic thriller too seriously by seeing Big Themes that aren’t really there.

The right way: Not taking this South Korean sci-fi post-apocalyptic thriller too seriously but seeing Big Themes that are (if you look closely) really there.

Update: At National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg engages with my review and disagrees with me about Curtis:

This strikes me as a bit unfair. We learn about his one-time desire to eat babies from a heart-wrenching story told by Curtis himself. He says the thing he hates about himself most is that he knows what people taste like. We learn that he was saved — as in he regained his soul — by seeing the self-sacrifice of Gilliam and others who literally chopped off their own limbs so that lives could be spared and the hungry might eat. Witnessing this act was quite clearly was transformative for Curtis. He was born again as a better man. Carter finds Christian themes in the film. This struck me as the most obvious.

Fair point. Maybe I was being too harsh on Curtis. Goldberg also adds:

As for Gilliam, the most revealing thing he says in the whole film is that Curtis should cut out Wilfred’s tongue the moment he sees him. “Don’t give him a chance to talk to you.” (I’m quoting from memory). That advice implies — I think — that Gilliam is not quite the partner Wilfred thinks he is (and that Carter assumes he is). If Curtis followed Gilliam’s advice, Curtis would have never been clued into Wilfred’s ideological scheme.

When I watched the movie, I missed that line about cutting out Wilfred’s tongue. If that’s true — and Wilfred was lying about their chummy relationship — that would indeed change some of my reading of the film.

What say you, reader? Is Curtis a hero or a villain?

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Perhaps the most over-analyzed film of all time, and it was just released! Take it for what it is: an awesome sci-fi B movie with an absurd premise that happens to have some… interesting… political messages. My expectations were met.

    • Anisa

      I agree; also very condescending to think people won’t “get” the film. It was a good watch. I only left annoyed at the inconsistencies with Edgar’s back story. He remembered eating steak as a baby?

      • penguine

        He remembers eating human meat. That’s why curtis told him to forget the taste. When curtis talks about the people cutting off their arms and legs for people to be able to feed themselves before they got the bug-bars.

        • emblem

          He said the protein blocks came in a month after the baby was saved. Edgar never had human meat

          • MichB

            It’s possible he did. A ‘baby’ could be counted as anything up to a 2-year-old, especially in the rear section where malnourishment would stunt growth. He’d be weaning by then, so what’s his mother going to feed him? She’s deified a bit by Curtis, who feels bad about killing his best friend’s mum, but she would have been as desperate for food as anyone and might have got hold of some “steak”. Curtis also says that it took a month after Edgar was saved before the protein blocks arrived, during which time people are cutting off their own limbs to feed each other, so that’s still a whole extra month of voluntary cannibalisation. It’s completely possible that Edgar remembers (or remembers remembering) being given “steak” as a toddler.

  • William Hamblin

    I suspect the train is North Korea and Wilford is the Dear Leader.

    • Brian Gunning

      Depending on your ideology and religion you could see all of the movie a number of ways… which is the intent of pretty much all French fiction.

  • Dillon Fox

    Excellent analysis my dear Watson.

  • Great job with this analysis. I don’t agree with everything you said and like the movie a lot more than you did, but I also think you’re hitting on some key points. The idea of Curtis as the villain who helps to destroy humanity is intriguing.

  • Paul Schumann

    Sounds good, thanks for the review!

  • KateNE

    Found the movie to be entertaining and thought-provoking to be sure. One question, was Curtis’ extreme reaction to what the protein bars were made of (insects, right?) a plot hole? Considering that he admitted to eating babies early on in the train’s existence, it seemed a bit of an over-reaction…

    • Kenshin

      They were cockroaches, and he had been eating them for just under 18 years. i could see that reaction being reasonable.

    • Brian Gunning

      Bugs are equated to filth. Filth, on the train, is equated to the tail-end passengers. It was revolting to realize they were the filth, and they were eating themselves. It reminded him of his horrid beginnings and his sins. It reminded him that his chances of redemption were unlikely, and therefore sickening.

      • Snorlax

        That actually makes sense

        • Idiokrat

          If you manage to ignore “Bugs are equated to filth” as a distinct cultural perception. Eaten by the Greeks, the Romans, and enjoyed today by people all over the globe.
          ( Not me, as I belong to the culture of “Bugs are equated to filth” ).
          Still, it does not make simple facts elude me.

          What did they compare with to find their food disgusting? Because if “Bugs are equated to filth” even when the world is “dead”, then surely our perception of life will inevitably lead us to our end.


  • Chris

    Great review.

    I saw Curtis as the primary hero. I see his thinking as purely logical with the intent of ensuring the survival of humanity. When he admitted to cannibalism, he was clearly ashamed of his acts and only acted on his instincts for the sake of preserving himself. The scene where he could either save Edgar or capture Minister Mason was just your classic decision based on saving one person at the expense of everyone else. At the end, we see Curtis sacrifice his arm to fulfill a promise he made to save another passenger’s son. I don’t see how Curtis being a secondary villian is even an option here. After all, it was Chronohead that destroyed the train. It was his bomb that caused the avalanche. If the engine had stopped the train would just coast to a halt and everyone would still be alive.

    It was pretty cut and dried to me, after all the symbolism of course.

    • Rikjaard Irvng

      “When he admitted to cannibalism, he was clearly ashamed of his acts and only acted on his instincts for the sake of preserving himself.” I think it goes beyond just self preservation when your killing babies since they taste better. He kills the babies mother, leaves her, and then also needlessly kills the baby.

  • Excellent insights and I wish I didn’t have such high expectations going in… I definitely agree on it getting overhyped! I still found it enjoyable and captivating, though. I read Curtis Everett (Curtiss “courteous, polite” mixed with Everett, “hardy, brave”) as the classic Greek tragic-hero: one who does his best in the given circumstance, overcoming the odds only to be eventually overwhelmed by the “fates” or his “destiny” as Wilfred (etymology: “will, peace”) describes it. He makes it to the end only to realize he’s been played… by everyone. Gilliam (an alternate form of William and part of Wilfred’s name… dual role/connection?) does warn Curtis to cut out Wilfred’s tongue and not believe anything he says. Perhaps he doesn’t want Curtis to know he colluded with Wilfred? Or he just knows Wilfred is cunning and will talk his way out of anything (and talk Curtis into taking the job?). I do wonder if Curtis would have accepted his fate if it weren’t for Yona (Hebrew: Dove, and the train did remind me of an “ark” of sorts…) showing him the kid – he wasn’t ready to give up the match to blow up the door/train before then. It came down to the children, and the act Gilliam made to save the baby burns so deeply within Curtis that he remembers it, channeling that memory a la Luke channeling Obi-Wan Kenobi after his death to do what needs to be done… even if it means the whole system must come crumbling down. Our political system is what makes us civilized and yet it also forces us into savagery almost unimaginable in an uncivilized state… a Catch-22. It’s an ambiguous ending (perhaps there were other survivors? Perhaps they could use fire to melt snow and ward of polar bears) save that nature does go on… even if we don’t.

  • Nick

    The movie fails. There was simply no point to the tail section. What balance did the tail section serve?

    • mike

      If you think of the train as a spectrum. You have the dirtypoor on one end and the cleanwealthy in the other. Two opposites of the spectrum. The two ends balance each other out.

      • Brian Gunning

        They were the only “fuel” the train could take on in the few desperate moments Wilford had to stop that one time they did stop…when his predictions of apocalypse proved true. He took on chaos because it could fuel the control he had over a longer time. Doing so meant he would lose control sooner, but have more power to keep going. Again, like everything in this delightfully dense ALLEGORY, it meant considering balance was more important than the needs of the individual (barring the needs of the HEAD and the TAIL…). Like most dystopian fiction, however, it also meant accepting and owning your own demise… or was it your own beginning?

    • As a representation for the current social system of Elites to Beggars people ask me why the Elites in normal society put up with the useless lower tiers of population and not just remove them. (some people believe that the Elites of the world are trying to kill off the useless lower levels though poisoned GM food and Sugar and heart disease etc) but my answer was that what is the point of being Elite if there is none of the intellectual juice being pushed up the chain. The Beatles for example never came from the elite they came from the street. Then there is workers, and of course the poor peoples ability to keep the other middle tiers in a state of fear and control. The Violinist represented the need for the elite to harvest musicians and culture. The Train represents scarcity and limited resources, something that most people and governments believe in (which I personally do not). The tail section is as important as the front. All in its place!

  • I think we need a more explicitly Straussian read of Snowpiercer. And I think Curtis is a tragic hero. Yes, he knows that babies taste the best, but he was also grossed out by eating bugs.

  • Osta

    I’m actually surprised how much this movie struck an emotional chord within me. Is Curtis a hero or a villain? I need to opt for another choice–Curtis is human. What struck me, in its entirety, was the human element in the entire system. I actually felt rather depressed and apathetic after watching this. The part when Curtis stated he knew that babies tasted better than adults, that this was all a covert operation to get him to replace Wilford, the children working in the engine as machines, the inequality described as “balance”–all of this gave me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that being human is a dire affliction. What is right, what is wrong–can all be justified by survival. It left me feeling very unsettled because it accurately reflected human nature. The ending left me feeling–why? For what reason? So that they can rebuild an empire again, only to be faced with the fallibility of human nature? We see these social stratification play out over and over throughout history, different periods of time, different cultures. It’s like watching Groundhog Day but without an ending. I hope I’m not coming off as a naive, emo adolescent. I’m a woman close to 50 with an educational background in anthropology, globalization and economics.

    • Brian Gunning

      I think you’re right. Blowing up the train was a moment of reckless hope, and more likely a moment of utter abandonment of principle. Ending the whole thing was the best solution… better than surviving in an “eternal” tomb of caste systems.

      It’s French.

  • Greekness Howerday


  • Boredinmin

    Bong Joon-ho tried to paint a hopeful picture for the restart of humanity. Unless there’s a lot of provisions left on the train, plenty of cold weather gear and a lot more survivers able to trek through brutal, frozen mountainous terrain, the human species is extinct. Making a half a**ed attempt to lighten a very dark ending didn’t sit well with me.

    • Nova3D

      What’s the importance of the polar bear? The polar bear population lives in the extreme climate of the Arctic, and many groups such as the Vikings where able to survive in the Arctic. Once you thinks of how humans have adapted to living in various harsh unforgiving extreme parts the earth, for example the Aborigines one has to be open to the possibility of these two surviving, especially as Yona is clairvoyant. I see the polar bear as the reality that life did indeed had gone on after the big freeze, however, there was no way for the inhabitants of the train to know. Just as important, these animals are never far from their food source. So, the children have warm clothing to begin, what about food. I assume that Yona will be able to use her gift to quickly find food and survive.

  • Passing thru

    In addition to spare parts, I figured the train would run only as long as the outside world was uninhabitable. What they had was an underclass that basically subservient. Thier conditions was almost reminiscent of slave ship and I assumed that the “pre ordained” position would be indentured servitude or slave in the rebuilding of civilization.

  • Brian Gunning

    THE WRONG WAY: Judgement
    THE RIGHT WAY: Forgiveness

    The movie is pure allegory intended to inspire dialog and prevent catastrophe. Your approach seems to inspire derisive judgemental RIGHT/WRONG ideas that are quite un-Christ-like.

    Utopian and Dystopian themes are not meant to be moral or ethical precepts. The ending is not meant to be an absolute. The entire piece is created simply to inspire discussion. Approaching it as RIGHT and WRONG utterly debilitates the dialog it was intended to create. Finding allegory that helps us understand our own potential to create or destroy our own future was the sole intent… much like the Bible.

    The joy of a movie like this is the dialog afterwards. The thing that kills that joy is judgement of the intent. The cure for all of it is forgiveness…and that is also the entire point of the ending.

    • jkm

      So do I have this right Brian, There is a right and wrong way to view the movie and its not right/wrong? Seems . . .problematic.

      • D. Levy

        This writer is judgmental, However I can’t say that the end of the movie it meant forgiveness. Discussion doesn’t equate to forgiveness.1 Everyone died, except for two. If forgiveness was meant then everyone wouldn’t die. for forgiveness they’d need a redeemer, or an redemptive action. everyone dying isn’t. I agree that it’s allegorical in the way Brian mentioned. However, I don’t believe the Bible is allegorical in the way that you said.

  • Katie Bolton

    Unpopular opinion time: I loved the ending *because* it shows that humans are going to go extinct, but life itself will go on (the polar bear). My original opinion was that the director was trying to say that human ideologies of order, no matter how complex and well thought out, will, ultimately, always crumble, but life itself is persistent beyond what humans can comprehend. We will never be above nature, or able to synthetically replicate its functions (long-term), and I think Minsoo was closest to understanding that. I thought it was absolutely beautiful. I’m almost disappointed Bong said otherwise, when there is clearly no way humans could survive in the situation he put them.

    • How incredibly, deeply misanthopist.

    • Kristopher Bras

      I think it’s a bit naive that everybody expects the two kids to just wander off into the snow and die. If you want to look at their situation logically, they still have shelter (the train) and several cars to rummage through for supplies–until they learn to cope with their new surroundings. It’s also ambiguous whether or not anybody else survived (which is very possible). The way I viewed the ending, was that they were stepping out because they simply never have before, and they were just ‘testing the waters,’ to see if the world was livable. They see the polar bear, and their question is answered.

      • Miranda Reynolds

        Given the catastrophic remnants of the train I’m going to assume not more than a few dozen would have survived that. Research into genetic diversity for the pioneering of space calculated the necessary population to be 160, without social engineering (~80 with), otherwise you’ll end up with inbreeding and will not maintain a stable polis. With only 160 you’d also have to be extremely rigorous in who reproduces with who to ensure no close genetic links in multiple families.

        I just don’t see 160 people surviving that crash, or accepting the social engineering after 18 years of living under the anxiety and fear of such a system. The world is liveable, and maybe Yona and Timmy could survive for awhile, but they can’t repopulate the Earth with humanity. They’re the last, and will be the last of humanity, but life found a way to survive even if humans didn’t.

        In the end it wasn’t nature that killed humanity, it was their own hubris. Nature is indifferent to our will to exist, it does not grant us special privileges, and it has no obligation to ensure that humanity survives. The ending is sad, sure, but there’s hope for life in general with the polar bear.

        • Hari

          Can I ask where you get your assumptions from that not more than a few dozen survived and that you just don’t see 160 surviving that crash?

          It’s clear from the film that the train is longer and has more carriages in than the ones you see in the film e.g. There are cow carcases and eggs but you don’t see the cattle carts or battery cages. You just don’t know how many ppl were on board and even the cull is given as a percentage, rather than a number. This could well be deliberate so as to not give away how many ppl were on board.

        • willbest

          Colonies have been started with as few as 6 men and 11 women.

    • ihop

      The problem that I have with the ending isn’t that it suggests human extinction – it’s that it was trying to maintain hope when there was none, just to have a happy ending.

    • patsy

      I agree totally. I read the ending that way. No way they can survive and if they did, even though they were train babies and knew nothing else, being humans, they would still manage to screw up the balance of nature given a few thousand years. It is best for the earth, now that the thaw is beginning that they die and the sooner the better. I thought i could see magnificence and disdain in the polar bears long and lingering look, not just a good meal! How’s that for anthropomorphizing! Down with humans.

  • Brian Kelly

    I think most of what you said about Curtis is true, but it doesn’t do his character justice. Every action he made was to end the inequality Wilford forced upon the people of the train and exact justice on those who oppressed him and his adopted family, the tail section. Obviously, many of his choices were cold and calculated, but he had to think that way in order to get to the front: yes, he let Edger die, but if he hadn’t stopped Minister Mason, the fighting would have resulted in more death. He made that decision for the sake of survival, but not just his own. Even near the end of the movie, Wilford lured Curtis towards the possibility of taking over the train by convincing him that he could solve all the injustice, that he could be a savior, and Curtis very nearly fell for it. And Curtis is a very different man throughout the movie than he was 17 years prior. When he met Gilliam, he changed drastically, just like everyone else in the tail section. Curtis saw him cut off his own arm and offer it in exchange for Edger’s life, and he wanted desperately to do the same. This doesn’t make him a hero, but it doesn’t quite make him a villain either. He’s just a man. You don’t look up to him because what he does is almost inhuman, almost savage, but you don’t look down on him because he believes what he does is necessary to bring about the equality he and his people have been denied.

  • Frank Denton

    I have to say, I saw so much more in this movie! It came to mind that when Wilfred spoke on everyone in their place and everyone being trapped, no matter where you belong on the train, wasn’t simply an analogy for class, but an analogy for the permanence of class in a closed environment. The humans in the rear of the train were aware, but never saw, the frozen Earth (my belief as an analogy for the unknown universe) and that under the best ecological balance, the universe (avalanche) intercedes. The frozen rebels pointed out by the schoolteacher were our first steps in space (the moon, perhaps?) with the accomplishment frozen in time, not just in temperature. When the end comes where the three remaining humans step out, they find strange life (the polar bear) in the universe, and they are walking away from a destroyed Earth (to never return.) The journey from the rear to the front is the journey from being brutal animals fighting for survival to arriving the highest of human achievement. The children in the engine are not human, but merely mechanisms with no conscience or soul. The offering of arms and legs to prevent the eating of children is the moment of noble sacrifice to establish the high value of life, which is the catalyst for the evolution to intelligence, to which the journey to the greatest achievements also inversely begin to devalue individual life to mere tools. The dancing car and the next ‘stoner’ car was an analogy for narcissistic pursuits of pleasure. It was certainly a fascinating movie.

  • ikonographi

    Very excellent insights-With respect, you might have missed the mark a bit with “Namgoong”…To my mind, he serves as an alternatively Taoist or Christian allegory to the superiority of the spiritual over the physical. While I concur that the “happy” ending bears many “logic bombs”…as does the entire plot…it is very obvious that the selection of a sub-adult “Mother Wife” and healthy male as the two survivors serves to illustrate the “Adam and Eve” theme. “Nam’s” faith in the ability to survive outside the train is symbolic of the need to rise above more humanist views. I agree however that “Curtis” is very much an anti-hero and possibly even (if you want to remain with the spiritual analogy) the embodiment of hubris.

  • Andy

    Is anyone else confused by how the polar bear managed to find shelter and food for all of those years despite temperatures that would turn you into an ice cube within minutes?

    • cuddlyfighter

      Yes! They had said in the beginning of the film that all animal life became extinct. Also how long did it take to get that cold? Did they build the train before the cold? How did they pick people to be on the train? Where did the people in the middle and front sections live and sleep?

      • Alfie

        They said in the film that Wilfred essentially anticipated the effect of the chemical that resulted in the freezing temperatures and so built the train. As for the tickets, the rich paid for the first class (or just to be on the train) and the poor basically turned up and ended up being in the crappy tail of the train.

  • Anon

    This is a metaphor for South Africa

  • KB

    Heros can be created through our own ideals. Curtis was willing to do whatever it took to get to the front of the train. When it came to “getting the job done”, there were reasonable sacrifices in his mind. Good leaders make the sacrifice, while a boss mentality expects others to make the sacrifice, while you “lead from afar”, because you are so invaluable in the minds of the collective conscience and your own selfish thinking. Leaders before him lost limbs so that the people may eat. While Curtis is focused on the greater picture, and is willing to do what it takes to get to the front of the train, often big picture views require things that in our own mind are villanous…and not needed. Wherever there is sacrifice, there will be those of us that see it as unnecessary, and come with a pacifist approach to explore an alternate solution. Blood is required in sacrifice. Those who follow may deny the need for it, yet desire the same reward as those who are willing to shed blood to get a greater cause accomplished. The easy way is not always the best way, particularly when you consider making long lasting change a part of the culture.

  • Fantastick

    Curtis was the villain. By chasing his obsession with reaching the engine, he inadvertently killed everyone except the two stragglers that made it out alive. Wilford was right when he said that humanity rested in Curtis’s hands and because of that humanity is doomed. I agree with the reviewer above that there is no way that polar bear is going to let 2 snacks walk right by without eating them. Even if the polar left them alone, how long would they survive climbing over a mountain in the winter wasteland.

  • Me

    My biggest problem with the movie is when Minsoo reveals he has cigarettes and the woman remarks “Marlboro lights.” Yet the cigarettes had brown filters. ML’s DO NOT have brown filters. I think it’s an intentional metaphor for creating a cool story then hyping it in the media by making a big deal about it not having a wider release and reaping the benefits as we all pay apple to download it. Let’s move on.

  • Tom Jefferson

    1. If this train scenario were true, they would have no need for a caste system. They could just keep balance by only allowing a child to be born for every death. There, problem solved. No need for staged revolutions and de-population.

    2. You can’t just put some flammable puddy together in a wad and make a huge explosion. There must be pressure, and the stuff would have to be way more volatile than something that is carried in your hand and inhaled..

    3. If there is a polar bear (or any mammal for that matter) then there is an eco system. The bear has to eat vegetation, fish, berries, etc, and if there’s vegetation, then there’s micro organisms, and insects that eat them, and small mammals that eat them, and finally the polar bears turn on the food chain.

  • Homelesshomie

    To me, it really came down to a single choice to let humanity live or to let it die. I think Curtis realized his aspirations no longer mattered as Wilfred spoke, because he saw Snowpiercer could not operate unless you enslaved children, ultimately killing them. Curtis chose to end humanity, rather than let it survive off of absolute cruelty. In a sense, Curtis shook off a previous generations beliefs and stuck with his own. The hard truth soon became, Snowpiercer was humanities only hope in a bloody handbasket. No one is going to survive what looked like the most uninhabital region on earth, hundreds of years displaced from hunter gathering.

  • Intranet

    The author keeps using the word Darwinian. I do not think it means what he think it means. Biological Darwinianism has nothing to do with social Darwinism, which was made up by a kook who tried to apply it to societal policies. And social Darwinism isn’t what he describes either.

  • Ricky

    I thought that was fecal matter from all the sections of the train, not cockroaches (it was hard to tell when I watched the movie) I never saw any cockroaches earlier in the film, or any type of bugs. I assume there were roaches and trash because there were people people and plants. I just thought they found a way to extract nutrients and protein from the shit on board and recycle it.

  • Sandy Casteill

    I found the movie really thought provoking. I see Curtis as both a savior and the secondary villan as his role both within the dynamics of the train society and within himself become more apparent. I was appalled by the cannibalism but, unfortunately, it is a common element that has been repeated throughout history when faced with dire circumstances. Most Americans probably will miss the darker elements to the story but those who are illuminated will easily pick up on the underlying story: survival of the fittest. Equality is a lie taught to us to keep us complacent with the status quo. There is no natural equality but natural order (anarchy). People have grown too arrogant to think we can force an unnatural ideal and control nature. As is evidenced by the violent and difficult aspects of the storyline.

  • Ariyo Mohammed

    The snowpiercer is a deep film….u need to have some unanswered questions existing in u about life before u can understand to a large extent the message pass by this film…the film takes a sequence of –balance–continuity–necessity of good and evil. The film ask u, how do u define evil when its essence is to contribute to growth and continuity. who are u, how do u make your choice, are u good, are u bad, what is your destiny…… there r no answers…. there is just u.

  • Steve

    “The wrong way: Believing it has a happy ending

    The right way: Seeing the ending as ‘Christian’ (in a sense)”

    Let’s fix this:

    The wrong way: inventing an ending the director didn’t intend because you, in your infinite wisdom (or rather, immeasurable arrogance and delusion) think you know someone else’s story better than they do

    The right way: acknowledging that the two final characters survive, and the director simply didn’t want to write another story as to how

    Also, Curtis IS the primary hero for two reasons –

    1) if all he cared about was personal survival, he wouldn’t have supported Namgoong Minsoo’s basically crazy and unpredictable plan

    2) he starts as a selfish, evil person, and ends as a “redeemed” person, having lost his arm (a symbol of selflessness) to rescue the child from the train engine

  • Wyatt

    How to discuss a movie.

    The wrong way: Imply that there is a right/wrong interpretation of the film.
    The right way: Argue your interpretation of the film.

  • WolFdavis

    I don’t think anyone was necessarily heroes or villain, everyone seems to operate in a moral grey area. On one side the revolutionaries just want to overthrow the hierarchy in place, but as they move through the train there ignorance about how everything operates suggests that they have no plan to fix the system they would throw into shambles. They other side is desperate to keep the system going, even if that sacrificing a few people. Hell even the revolution was well calculated plan by the hierarchy to cut down population so that the everyone else could live. And then we have the drug addict who decides that risking everything for an uncertain possibility.

    There’s no right or wrong, just action and reaction. A series of events that lead to the destruction of the human race.

  • SpiderPig

    I mean, come on, someone out there must of had some kind of facility where they could of survived this disaster, they, will rebuild humanity, two children.

  • Idontgetit

    Right so Wilford is genius train fanatic with the foresight that the climatological engineering project is going to go drastically wrong. He doesn’t like people in general because they made fun of his obsession with trains so he sets about getting even with them by taking the trouble to invent a perpetual motion engine so he can kettle up a few chosen survivors in a train that is vulnerable to avalanches and derailments.

    If Wilford was really concerned about saving humanity then he would have built a far more practical, stationary, ecosystem that would more spacious and robust than the train!

  • Maureen Nwadike Amobi

    I love this movie, the director is so brilliant..

  • Thank you for your great discussion on this post. Comments are now closed.

  • Ace B

    2 years too late, but honestly? The movie was entertaining,but terrible. Sure, can someone explain how the hell they have space for a mini ocean on a flipping train? There were so many things wrong with the movie… interesting concept, but is everyone blind to the absurdity?

    Started great and had huge potential, but ended up really predictable and pointless. Why the hell do you need a train to survive an ice age?? Dafaq is that? That’s the world’s best defense for an oncoming ice age? That’s it?!?

    You guys out of your minds?

    • Tymofiy Zanyk

      I completely agree. The beginning was interesting but in the middle it started to *** logic everywhere possible. Starting with their meals and drinks (yeah vine in bottles) and even insects they make protein bars from, ending with whole idea of overpopulation. There is no necessity in creating a dangerous revolution, one can take away children as they in fact do.
      But also there is problem not only with logic and realism (people cut off their arms), the film is full of cliches like only the main character survives, people die after saying a final word, fights with “boss” while others just watch and so on.

  • Ace B

    Haha yeah I felt the same way. I think that was the last time I trust anything based on it’s rating.

    For me it felt more like a classic B rated movie. So cheesy and just plain awful.