SPOILERS AHEAD, so please don’t read any of this if you plan on seeing the film, and you don’t want any of it ruined for you!
You’ve been warned!!
It not exactly what we’d call a "black film" (a disclaimer I thought worth making from the start, given this blog’s stated mission; although it’s a statement that could be debated), but its presentation as a miniature look at matters of class and the potential for genuine class warfare (when the oppressed decide that they no longer wish to exist in a society whose socioeconomic system insists on their oppression, and act against it, providing a lever for radical change) is an idea that I believe we all can appreciate. And given director Bong Joon-ho’s confident direction (I could nitpick at certain things, but I won’t), it’s a film you really should see, for its original premise and the ideas it challenges you with – notably the ending… as I saw it anyway.
First, the story: In 2014, an experiment to counteract global warming causes an ice age that kills nearly all life on earth. The only human survivors are the inhabitants of the Snowpiercer, a massive train, powered by a unique engine that can run forever, that travels on a globe-spanning track, never stopping. A class system is installed within the train, with the elites inhabiting the front of it, and the poor inhabiting the tail section. Years later, in 2031, the tail inhabitants (comprised of a motley crew of the oppressed, including characters played by Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, and others), as well as prisoners played by Song Kang-ho and Go Ah-sung (both stars of director Joon-ho’s awesome subversive creature feature "The Host"), prepare for the latest in what we’re led to believe have been a series of past rebellions. Will they be successful, unlike past revolts? You’ll have to see the film for the rest of the story.
If that premise doesn’t already have your interest, then maybe what the film’s ending implies, might.
Again, SPOILERS AHEAD, so don’t read any of this if you plan on seeing the film, and you don’t want the ending ruined for you!
Alright, you asked for it.
So, as I said before, this is my interpretation of what I saw, as others who’ve seen the film may have taken something entirely different from it. It’s a film that, like "The Host," combines a blockbuster plot and political commentary.
The film ends with a massive explosion on the train (intentionally caused) that leads to an avalanche in the surrounding mountains around the track where the train finds itself at that moment. The avalanche of course reaches the train, destroying many of the cars, derailing them, and, as we’re led to believe, likely killing everyone inside of them. After all that chaos, there’s a moment of respite, and in the aftermath, 2 characters emerge from the wreckage – characters that the film seems to suggest are the only 2 survivors, since no one else exits: Yona, played by Go Ah-sung and Tim (Octavia Spencer’s son in the film), played by Marcanthonee Reis.
Both, ambivalently, step outside into the snow (ambivalent because, as they’ve been taught, humans are not supposed to be able to survive outside of the train; a belief that was indeed once true, but that they prove is no longer the case, when they exit the train and spot a polar bear).
Fade to black.
Now what I especially loved about this ending is that, despite the fact that the revolt was led by your expected white male hero, in Curtis, as played by Chris Evans, the star of the film, for all intents and purposes, he dies in the wreckage caused by the avalanche (or so we’re led to believe), and the 2 survivors are a South Korean girl and an African American boy – a rarity in films of this nature, maybe helped by the fact that the filmmaker is South Korean. I can only guess that director Joon-ho knew exactly what he was doing here; consideration for the fact that a male and female survived, and both are from what society labels *minority groups* today.
So, even more thought-provoking is that, when you further consider (as we’re led to believe, that every living human being lived on that train since the earth to froze over) this pair of survivors is all that the human race has left, one can only assume that, when they are both of age (the boy who’s much younger than the girl, specifically) they’ll have to procreate to re-populate the planet. Think of them as a kind of Adam & Eve all over again, if you will, with every boy and girl who would be born in the years that will follow this significant moment in humanity’s history, who will repopulate earth, will come from a South Korean woman and an African American man.
At least, that’s my interpretation.
Think about that world for a second…
And then go see the movie, if you haven’t yet.