I went to see “Snowpiercer” with my dad and a good guy friend recently.
We’re all fans of the Wachowski’s “Matrix” trilogy and found a lot of common themes in the two films.
Warning: Spoiler Alert!!
At first glance, these post-apocalyptic sci-fis couldn’t be more different.
“Matrix”‘s black leather, fighting effects and sharp urban setting give the impression of a futuristic computer game.
“Snowpiercer”, however, combines icy landscapes with dark, gritty interiors and a bizarre dramatic imagery unique to French art, giving the film a nightmarish quality.
So, what do a computer-generated alter reality and a giant train that endlessly circles frozen wasteland have in common?
In the “Matrix”, machines have triumphed over humans and programmed them in to a false reality.
Aided by code-blooded Agents, this computer system prevents humans from detecting the deception without the help of those who survive in the real world.
“Snowpiercer” has the passengers of the giant train are divided into classes based on their ticket (first class, second class etc.)
The engineer and dictator of the train, Wilford, employs more obviously brutal methods of child labor, population control, and the chopping off of frozen limbs to keep his social order in place.
Both films utilize strong socio-political and religious themes that both fuel and foil their flawed systems.
The “Matrix” emphasizes free will (red or blue pill, anyone?) and destiny.
With its freedom fighters and not-so-subtle Biblical references, has a very Christian-Judeo-Buddhist world view.
It’s all about accepting who you were meant to be.
One could even argue that the films’ origin is French as well, thanks to philosopher Rène Descartes.
His theory that perception is deceptive and existence is an illusion provides the backdrop for the entire series.
“Snowpiercer” also looks at choice and deception, but from a different angle.
With a European totalitarian system that would have made Hitler proud, the train’s social order revolves around “knowing one’s place”.
The film’s philosophy takes Communism to the extreme by insisting that the harsher methods of population control are put in place for the “greater good”.
There’s even a hint of a caste system, where those with no ticket are considered the lowest of the low and unfit to set outside of their place to be a part of society.
The films have a similar protagonist as well: the “reluctant hero”.
Not only are they both deeply flawed and thrust into leadership roles, but they also experience redemption at the end of the film…
…as they die for the causes they believe in.
Kyle Anderson, (aka Neo) is introduced as a IT office worker by day and a petty hacker by night.
Ironically, it is his tendency to defy the law that leads him to discover the Matrix.
Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) is a soldier on the wrong side with a deeply unsettling past.
Near the end of the film, we learn that he is guilty of many crimes against humanity, including murder and cannibalism.
In a terrible twist, both protagonists must face the same realization: their rebellion was merely a part of the overall plan to control the very system they’d rejected.
…Which brings us to the choice. Where does free will fit in when every move seems to be part of a plan?
Welllll…I won’t ruin it for you.
But this the appeal of thought-provoking, fantastical films like “Matrix” and “Snowpiercer”.
Each film presents a disturbing dilemma, an alternate universe where the bad guys actually have logical reasons for their cruelty and our heroes seem weak and flawed by comparison.
Is a well-run, if inhumane system, always morally repugnant if the alternative is utter chaos?
Is free will really all that it’s cracked up to be?
In the end, we’re not really sure if everything’s going to be okay.
Our heroes are dead, leaving a brief hole in the social order, but we’re not sure if their sacrifice actually a difference.
Did they break the pattern of tyranny or is this just another glitch?
Even now, I’m still not sure.
After all, “Snowpiercer” ends with a wrecked train and a lot of dead people.
Makes you wonder if that nasty cannibalism cycle is about to make another cameo appearance.