‘Snowpiercer’ offers distorted image of how God works

Do the well-off have a responsibility to care for the poor?

By Michael Parnell

There have been some great movies set on trains. Joining that list is Snowpiercer, a movie like Titanic without the love story.

Set 17 years in the future, a compound called CW-7 has been set loose in the atmosphere to deal with global warming. As a result the earth is frozen.

A remnant of humanity is now on a train circumnavigating the globe, driven by an engine that never stops and which provides the energy for the compartments behind. Within those compartments are all classes of society. At the front are the well-to-do and in the back are the poor.

Among those In the rear is Curtis (Chris Evans), who longs for freedom for those who are treated with disdain. He plans to move to the front of the train to take control.

The train is run by a mysterious man known as Mr. Wilford (Ed Harris). None of the people have ever seen or heard from him. But they have seen his armed guards who come from time to time in order to take children away and perform medical checks. These armed guards also bring protein blocks, a black gelatin substance, which serves as food.

Curtis and his group of fellow passengers wait and watch for their moment to move forward. Meanwhile, we see how people who stand up to Wilford’s forces are treated. A father tries to protect his child from being taken away. As punishment his arm is placed through a porthole outside the train and a timer is set to the point at which it will be completely frozen.

While the timer is counting down, Mason (Tilda Swinton) tells the people in the rear section they should know their place. She uses the illustration of a shoe. The shoe is meant to be worn on the foot, she says. It is not supposed to be placed upon the head. She places the shoe of the man whose arm is out in the cold on his head to show that it does not fit there.

Those in the rear did not pay for a first-class ticket and they are not entitled to a first-class service. Only those who paid the price deserve the service. Others are entitled to nothing more than what they get, Mason concludes.

I thought this scene was a mirror image of 1 Corinthians 12. There Paul talks about the church being the body of Christ and Christians are all members of the body. No member is greater than the other and no member is less than the other.

Mason’s speech turns this idea inside out by saying some members are greater than others. We see how this greatness is meted out on the march forward on the train. There is all manner of delights for those in the forward cars.

When Curtis and his forces move to the front they meet stiff resistance. The fighting, at times, is nothing short of medieval. But with each car taken, we see how those in the front of the train are pampered and treated with great concern. The contrast between the back and front is remarkable.

The real secret of the train is not in the cars, however, but at the front. It is within the engine that we discover the true nature of the train, which bears a striking resemblance to the man, Wilford, who invented it and runs it. This order of priority grows from a mind which feels people deserve only what they earn.

Snowpiercer is directed by South Korean director Joon-ho Bong. This is his first English-language movie. He takes his story from a French graphic novel by the same name.

The director took the idea of how God works and turned it inside out. I referred to the speech being a mirror image of Paul’s theology of the Body of Christ. The movie is really a twisted mirror image of how God works.

Wilford is declared to be a deity by the people in the front of the train. He is good and benevolent to those that give to him but indifferent to the plight of those who are unable to give and are completely dependent upon him.

He is more anti-Christ than Christ. Wilford is a man who sees himself as one that rose to the top and is the fullest expression of the idea of “will to power.”

Curtis represents “will to power,” as well. But he is motivated by concern for those who cannot do for themselves and deserve a chance to enjoy what others enjoy. There is a secret, though, that will tempt him to abandon his quest.

This movie has a good mix of action and thoughtfulness. It is hard to recommend to all audiences, as it is very violent. But the message is contemporary and something our culture needs to discuss. What responsibility do the rich and powerful have to those who are poor and without resources? Are we being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers?


Rated R for violence, language and drug content

Directed by Joon-ho Bong. Written by Joon-ho Bong and Kelly Masterson, based on a graphic novel by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrande and Jean-Mark Rochette

With: Chris Evans (Curtis), Ed Harris (Wilford), Tilda Swinton (Mason), Jamie Bell (Edgar), Octavia Spencer (Tanya), Michael Hurt (Gilligam)

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.