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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Next Stop: Twilight Zone


Plot Overview

Dateline July 1, 2014: “Global warming can no longer be ignored.” The human solution to this human caused problem is to seed the atmos­phere with CW–7 an “artificial cooling substance.” The jets spray their chemicals. Then “the world froze. All life became extinct” … except for a “precious few” on the “rattling ark” of a train called Snow­piercer.

April, 2031, 17 years later. a mutiny is brewing back in steerage (“Is it time?” ¶“Not yet, Tanya. Soon.”) Curtis (Chris Evans) is the instigator helped by his good friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), in league with a wise old man named Gilliam (John Hurt) who'd helped the engineer Wilford design the engine (“We control the engine, we control the world.”) They need to break Namgoong Minsoo (Song Kang-Ho) out of the prisoner car. Since he designed the security gates between cars, it is hoped he can defeat them (“Our fate depends on this man.”)

The mutiny was provoked by the rigid class system in which “Order is the home that holds back the cloud of death,” where we must all hold to “our preordained particular position” in which “a shoe belongs on the foot,” not on the head. As Nam begins breaching doors, advised by his clair­voyant daughter Yona (Ah-sung Ko) what's behind them, we begin to under­stand the workings of the train. It was designed by Wilford (Ed Harris) a disbeliever in global warming, who “over­engin­eered” it “over­equipping the train” laid out on 438K km of track gerry­mandering its way across the globe, which circuit the train completes once a year. (That works out to an average speed of 31 mph.) The periodic revolutions among the rabble are managed to cull the population in a delicately balanced “closed ecosystem” (“We are all prisoners on this train.”) Should Curtis succeed in taking the engine, he would then be responsible for maintaining the balance in a system that hasn't the luxury or the time to be turned over to survival of the fittest. And even if the world were to thaw, he may discover no change as “The train is the world, we the humanity.”


This “rattling ark” is a series of joined cars, not the big boat that carried Noah and sons when the world they knew got too wet. In this world all the water froze solid, the reverse from Noah's solid world turning liquid. This flip in an ark story is called art. John W. White­head writing about GOD AND FILM says (267):

In this chaotic age, people are increasingly seeking some­thing out­side them­selves to give order and meaning to their lives. While painting once tackled these questions, modern film now addresses this search, which inevitably includes the subject of God. Of all the artistic forms through­out the ages, film may be the most suit­able forum for the discussion of religion and God.

My neighbor's an artiste who gets confused reading the Bible but she says that won't stop her from painting a picture of Adam and Eve. Artists paint their feelings. There's also this gem of wisdom in Barry Maitland's book, No Trace (105):

This is sort of what my masters is all about: relative values. … Society operates on a hierarchy of value systems, right? Religion was once at the top, but now it's way down, with royalty, say. Wealth is high up, and celebrity, and heritage and ethnicity, but at the very top is art. Art trumps every­thing else. You can blas­pheme on TV, make jokes about the Queen, be obscene and poke fun at the rich and famous, but you can't afford to be seen as a philis­tine. You can't trash art, not really, not unless you're an artist yourself, in which case your trashing of art becomes art itself, which is okay.

“Snowpiercer” is an artistic–sci-fi rendering of a religious subject: Noah and his ark. In Noah's day man­kind was wicked, Gen. 6:5, but Noah was a good man, Gen. 6:9. In 2014 (in this movie) every­one follows the bad science of human-caused global warming, but Wilford practices good science expecting an ice age. He designs a train to weather it.

During the latest revolution on it, a pitched battle is paused so every­one may observe the crossing of Yekatarina Bridge. What is that all about? Let's rearrange the letters of Yekatarina to get: "I eat any ark." Sure enough the train gets swallowed by a tunnel right after crossing the bridge. The word game itself is probably homage to the riddle game between Tolkien's hobbit Bilbo Baggins and Gollum who posed: “This thing all things devours: … Gnaws iron, bites steel” (84). The answer, of course is, “Time! Time!” (85). The crossing of Yekatarina Bridge is accompanied by counting down the New Year. It marks the passage of time. After 17 crossings, the movie is concerned with passing their order of society on to future generations.

Now, Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and these three fathered the human race alive today. From Shem, for instance, came White Europeans (and others). Ham's descendants settled largely in Africa becoming the black races. Part of the order of society Noah passed on to them is found in Gen. 9:26-27. Shem was blessed and Japheth was integrated with him in that blessing. In the train the First Class is blessed, and in an opening scene a violinist (Boston Symphony, first chair) from steerage was integrated up into First Class to play for them. Unfortu­nately, his wife Doris who is a better violinist wasn't included. In the Noah story, the blessing of Japheth is taken to include wife and family—and future generations—but this artistic inter­pre­tation flips it, because in our age of political correctness, we like to include Ham also in the blessing of integration, and we don't like talk of slavery pertaining to Ham's son Canaan. We expand; the movie contracts; it's flipped.

In the Noah story, there's an incident concerning the covering of Noah's body—according to the book of Enoch he was an albino and probably subject to ridicule—in Gen. 9:22-23, and in the train story a kid is covered by his black mama Tanya's (Octavia Spencer) dress to hide him from the slave trader. Noah didn't like what Ham had done to him and spoke accordingly, Gen. 9:24-25, but seemed to take it out on Ham's son Canaan instead of his father. The movie inter­prets the boy holding the ball for the whole community (“I get the ball for a whole hour”) in the way kids crave attention. Tradition­ally, Canaan's slavery was representative of his whole family: Hodge (134) quotes “Bible Questions and Answers,” The Golden Age (July 24, 1929): p. 702.

     Question: Is there anything in the Bible that reveals the origin of the Negro?

     Answer: It is generally believed that the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the Black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren,” he pictured the future of the Colored race.

In today's politically correct climate, the interpretation of the slavery put on Canaan is very narrow, that it applies just to the one off­spring of Ham, while the blessing of inte­gration given to Japheth is very broad including his brother Ham the black races. Go figure.

In the movie a man's arm is turned white for punishment of unspecified infractions. In some traditions Ham's skin was turned black as a punishment for sin. Who knows? The movie flips it, of course, but it's only art any­way. After Noah's voyage first a (black) raven, Gen. 8:7, & (white) dove, Gen. 8:8-9, and then a dove a second time. Gen. 8:10-11, were sent out to test if it were clear. In this movie first an Inuit leading “the revolt of 7” jumped off the train, but they froze to death. At the end a trio of three races spot a white polar bear (with beady black eyes and nose) on a white field of snow, and it's alive and well.

New Years follows hard after Christmas, for us, but in this crazy story I think we have to look at the Holy family's flight to Egypt right after the visit of the Magi, Matt. 2:13, wherein the (baby) Creator of the universe was reduced to being a poor refugee but did not exercise his divine prerogative to elevate him­self (“You know, every­one has their own preordained position”) but accepted his bottom status of a shoe, in harmony as the Lord describes it to visionary Maria Valtorta (113):

In that house order is respected: supernatural, moral, material. God is the Supreme Head and He is wor­shipped and loved: super­natural order. Joseph is the head of the family and he is loved, respected and obeyed: moral order. The house is a gift of God as well as the clothes and the furnishings. The Providence of God is shown in everything, of God Who supplied wool to sheep, feathers to birds, grass to meadows, hay to animals, grains and branches to birds, Who weaves the dress of the lily of the valley. The house, the dresses, the furnishings are accepted with gratitude, blessing the divine hand that supplies them, looking after them with respect as gifts of the Lord, without any bad humour because they are poor, without ill use, without abusing Divine Providence: material order.

Production Values

“Snowpiercer” was directed by Joon-ho Bong who with Kelly Masterson also wrote its screen­play, being based on the French graphic novel, Le Trans­per­ceneige written by Jean-Marc Rochette, Jacques Lob, and Benjamin Legrand. Stand-out acting was done by Tilda Swinton who played a sadistic minister we just love to hate. The sets were creative and varied as we move from car to car, going from squalor to grandeur. Bong's depictions are cut and dry, fleshed out by Ondrej Nekvasil's production design and Hong Kyung-pyo's beautiful cinematography. This story seems to be some­how rooted in the story of Noah's ark, enough to rate allowances when its science seems a bit imaginative. CGI was used effec­tively as needed.

Review Conclusion w/ Consumer Recommendation

This is a weird one I didn't know quite what to expect from, but it held my interest until the end. It's sort of a border­line cross between sci-fi and fantasy with a fair share of action. Go for it if that's your thing.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Several suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Four stars out of Five.

Works Cited

Hodge, Bodie. Tower of Babel: The Cultural History of Our Ancestors. Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Pub., 2013. Print.

Maitland, Barry. No Trace: a Brock and Kolla mystery. New York: St. Martin's Minotaur, 2006. Print.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Books, 1981. Print.

Valtorta, Maria. The Gospel as Revealed to Me. Vol. 1. Translated from Italian by Nicandro Picozzi, M.A., D.D.  Revised by Patrick McLaughlin, M.A. This 2nd English Edition has now replaced the First English Edition, The Poem of the Man-God. WEB.

Whitehead, John W. Grasping for the Wind—the search for meaning in the 20th century. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001. Print.