Out of the sea, or gleaming white icefield as the case may be, of movies I go through, Snowpiercier has emerged as one of my favorites in quite some time. Is it dark as pitch black night dark? Absolutely. Does it take humanity to a place we do not want to go by the hand of human hubris? Oh, yeah. Does it take us to an ambiguous ending that leaves us going “Huh?” then “Huh.”. Yep. But. Does it also make us think? Resoundingly!

I like movies that do all of the above. I just don’t often get it all in one beautifully rendered package. At the start it’s difficult to imagine anything, anyhow but the dystopian nightmare of the back of the train. Dark, ugly, hopeless. Then different people come to take away children. Ah ha! All is not the same all over the train.

It’s not until a contingent from the back breaks out to trek the long, long rolling geography that is Snowpiercer that it becomes startlingly clear that there are layers of existence. It is only when that clean, calm, normal school comes into view that the extent of the startlement becomes clear. Juxtaposed with what we know of the back, the classroom is heaven to its hell.

The further we go the weirder it
gets, until arrival at the front thrusts us into a battle between sane and insane, good and evil, life and death. Ultimately, the culmination of all the struggle that’s come before leads us back to the small frightened child taken from the rear to fade into the horrified imagination of its desperate mother. Of course, no one, not even a loving mother, could ever imagine the truth that her child just happens to fit the requirements that in a way make him a savior of Snowpiercer and all aboard. He’s small enough to physically fit into a space from which he can keep the train going. He is a part. An almost literal living cog in the engine of their lives.

And then the end. The avalanche. The devastation. Snowpiercer lying broken and still. Two survivors. A horrible, horrible presumably brief future can only lie ahead for them. How can they survive a ruined world?

Then…

A polar bear!

Pristine fur standing out in living, breathing reality against the harsh stark background, it stands as hope that the world is not finished.

It stands to rise again from its glistening coffin of ice.

That’s the way Snowpiercer ended for me. Though my brain wavered for a while, trying to decide if it was sure. It’s impossible not to see the potential for a different, soul crushing future. The two survivors don’t survive. They’re polar bear dinner. The world finally ends in any way we know it. Humanity is over. Whatever animals survive have the world as they know it.

I think the dichotomy of the two potential endings is way cool. Any movie that can keep me thinking…pausing…whatiffing…maybe just maybeing is more than just entertainment. The many questions it raises and won’t let lie still are valuable to us all in a world where we’re always one scientific experiment gone wrong from a different future from whatever we may be expecting. Let’s just hope there are Snowpiercers being imagined, along with whatever might try to wipe us out.

The idea of that train is the kind of thing that may haunt our dreams. And give us nightmares. And hope.

Snowpiercer Trailer

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