A post-apocalyptic ice age forces humanitys last survivors aboard a globe-spanning supertrain that functions via a perpetual-motion engine. One man will risk everything to incite a revolt for control of the engine and the future of the world.
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Bong’s point is that the end of capitalism would not be possible without considerable violence on both sides. We see this also in the anti-capitalist films of the Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein, who also depicted scenes of violent upheaval and brutal repression in “Battleship Potemkin” and “Strike” (both 1925). The end of capitalism, it seems, would be tantamount to the end of the world.
Bong seems to understand something many others don’t, both about broad entertainment and the state of successful political action. Big action demands broad strokes; nuances emerge later. In fact, this is to a large degree the political subtext of Snowpiercer itself… Moving from car to car is a vulgar-Marxist revolt organized like a videogame, easy to understand and equally easy to dismiss.
We think we know what to expect from action scenes, just as we think we know what to expect from post-apocalyptic movies and tales of revolution. Again and again, Snowpiercer plays against the expectations it sets up. Up through its final moments, this is a film that is thrillingly, unnervingly unpredictable.