Snowpiercer explores the world when whatever little of humanity is left, after a scientific experiment goes wrong and all life becomes extinct, gets stuck within a train called the “Rattling Ark”. This is not only a story set in a post-apocalyptic future, but the various characteristics of this world depicted in the movie can be labelled as vividly dystopian and highlighting important aspects of our modern-day world environmentally, socially and politically.
The movie is set in the year 2031 after the world has frozen due to a chemical called CW-7 that scientists invented to counteract the problem of global warming within the world, however, with tackling this problem, the chemical also ends up killing all the species present on Earth except for some humans that were passengers of a multipurpose, high quality train invented by the Wilford industry. However, over the years, the stark differences among the people boarded within different sections of the train is highlighted within this story. Basically, the train represents the society while the front section represents the elite class, the tail section depicts the poor people (which got in such state after all that they had was taken away) and then there is another section at the very front with the engine. The engine run by Mr. Wilford represents what we would call in a normal society as the government or the ruling part that governs and controls rest of the section. The story plays along with how the people in the tail section are fed up with living the way they have been living so together they plan an insurgence as they find flaws within the whole system which they can take over and get to the front. Finally, they do so one day, taking over the train section by section with Curtis, the main character, leading them through with the help of a security analyst who knows how to open all the doors of the trains in between sections, Mr. Nam. However, unfortunately, they keep on losing several of their people when they go on through different sections as they encounter people working under Wilford. Once they also get hold of the major minister of the train who eventually turns out to be of no use as she is simply a puppet of Mr. Wilford at the engine. Eventually, after losing all integral characters and the ones who are left get to the very front, Curtis is finally brought to the truth through Mr. Nam of how there is a chance of survival outside of the train as he mentions all the signs he observed that prove that the ice outside is melting bringing the world to a temperature livable by humans so they should leave everything and go outside by bombing the train. Meanwhile, Curtis gets a chance to meet Wilford, which he had been wanting to do since forever, so as soon as he finds a way to him, he goes to meet him. Once he encounters Mr. Wilford, Wilford uncovers some shocking revelations of how the train was run, Mr. Giliam, an old man in the tail section who Curtis thought was with them, and Mr. Wilford were together in this plan to keep population in control and make this controlled ecosystem work. Eventually, Curtis, Mr. Nam and his daughter all together, make the whole train system break down by bombing it while mostly everyone gets killed, Mr. Nam’s daughter and Timmy (the son of another integral character) are the only apparent survivors who are brought face to face with the truth of how they are able to survive in the world outside of the train.
This movie reflected integral dystopian aspects, one of the greatest was the stark class divisions amongst the different sections of train which was in fact one of the biggest themes depicted throughout the movie and served as the driving force of the entire story. There are three main compartments within the train: one the tail section which represented the poor, the middle section basically depicting the elite class and then at last the front section with the engine and main control of the entire train. These classes were designed to keep everyone in their “preordained” positions so as to maintain a sense of order and the preordained position was determined by the type of tickets that people bought the time, they first boarded the train. The tail section people had to suffer the most as they were the poor initially they did not even have food to eat as a result they had to move to cannibalistic ways of living when eventually they were moved to so called protein bars which was later revealed to be made up of junk and disgusting material. These people were living in filthy and congested spaces with no space for anyone to even move. Bunk beds were all shared by multiple people. And with no proper water supplies, the people were filthy and wearing ragged clothes. They were compared to be the “foot” of the body while the front section was described as the head of the body. The poor people often had their children taken away for their sizes as being small enough they could fit into small spaces and make some old parts of the engine work. All of this represents sheer injustice as these people were not even treated as humans more so as waste and at times experimental subjects with the way their children were measured for certain purposes for the functioning of the train and also with the way these people were punished if they ever in the slightest ways tried to oppose the decisions of those in power. Their lives were also not valued as they were without reason killed just to keep the population in control.
Another dystopian aspect reflected throughout the movie was the aspect of fear which was often maintained by enforcing violence upon the people in the tail section. As for instance, the soldiers put in place by Wilford that often entered the tail section of the train had guns with them which were later revealed to have no bullets in them solely because they were never meant to be shot as they only served as a symbol to create fear amongst the poor and threaten them to remain within their places because if not they would be killed and the people at front thought that just having a gun was enough as the poor people would never come to know about the lack of bullets within the guns. Violence in general was also depicted throughout the way people were being killed back and forth either for the means of “population control” or maintaining the insurgence at a safe distance and it was also saddening with the way how easily people were killed just to maintain a simple world as if those lives did not matter or the so called balance, which if we accept it wasn’t going to continue on for long anyway, was more important than those lives.
Another dystopian aspect that I believe prevailed throughout the movie was the way Mr. Wilford systematically oppressed the people by trying to enforce the idea amongst the people within the tail section of how it was rather a favor of Mr. Wilford that he had saved these “poor people” because if they had stayed outside then they would have died which was a kind of a tactic he tried to implement to keep those people ingratiated to him and prevent any sort of revolt from them which obviously didn’t work but still it was put into place for a long time until people got fed up with all their suffering. Overall, some other major dystopian aspects include the environmental disaster which led the world into such a place. And as we all know the environmental disaster talked about was again majorly man-made (global warming). Also, the excessive use of technology within the train like the controlled, computerized system, massive engines and the major misuse of it as done by Wilford.
This movie exquisitely depicted various themes throughout the span of 2 hours that touched on such aspects that can even be matched up to the present-day world we live in which is why it hits so close to home even if those characteristics are yet not visible in such extremes within our world as within the movie.