SOCIETY OF THE SNOW
Starring: Enzo Vogrincic, Matías Recalt, Agustín Pardella, Felipe Otaño, Luciano Chattón, Valentino Alonso, Francisco Romero, Agustín Berruti, Andy Pruss, Simón Hempe, Juan Caruso, Esteban Bigliardi, Rocco Posca, Esteban Kukuriczka, Rafael Federman, Agustín Della Corte, and Tomás Wolf
Director: J.A. Bayona
Society of the Snow could've easily just coasted on the sheer undeniable power of the miraculous true story, but director/co-writer J.A. Bayona ventured beyond that to tell a powerful tale of human resilience. The story structure could've used some work, as many moments felt like they were going in circles, but the film is a technical marvel that puts us smack-dab in the freezing cold for a grueling two-and-a-half hours, filled with the lowest lows and the highest highs. Even for what I expected, the movie is an absolute triumph and a film worthy of its subject matter.
Society of the Snow is a harrowing yet empathetic depiction of the 1972 Andes mountain plane crash and its Uruguayan passengers' fight for survival. The film explores the gut-wrenching ordeals of the crash’s aftermath with brutal and disturbing realism, focusing on the tender moments of compassion and hope shared by members of the group. Undoubtedly a tough watch, co-writer and director J.A. Bayona effectively encapsulates the abject horror of the situation whilst foregrounding deeply emotional themes of faith, morality, and friendship, all made possible by the remarkable performances and evocative score.
The first and third acts of Society of the Snow are exquisite, highlighting the unimaginable choices one must make when fighting for survival in the face of near-certain death. It’s gritty and realistic, respecting the victims and survivors by not falling into exploitive sensationalism. That second act, though? Man… it’s sluggish. It’s often spinning its wheels, which maybe is the intent…to make you marinate in the awful situation for longer than is comfortable…but it results in a movie that is 30-45 minutes too long. Still, though, it’s a horrifically beautiful technical achievement that aptly touches on themes of morality, hope, friendship, and perseverance.
Society of the Snow is absolutely horrifying and tremendously uplifting. That may seem oxymoronic, but it’s the most harrowing experiences that bring out man’s most resilient qualities. Director J.A. Bayona is no stranger to disaster movies, but with Snow, he focuses on the impossibility of hope and uses the story’s tragic event to bolster the staggeringly complex aspects of the characters’ humanity. With a mixture of scope, silence, a soulful score, and sinister sound design, Bayona, composer Michael Giacchino, and the terrific ensemble bring forth an extremely powerful end to the 2023 movie season.
Did you ever see Alive (1993)? Well, Society of the Snow is its more authentic, more complete, and much more accurate bigger brother. The camera shots are fantastic, the acting is top-tier, and director J.A. Bayona’s detailed re-creation does what few others in cinema could do, telling a complete story in under two-and-a-half hours. You will run the gamut of emotions through every perceived triumph and crushing setback, and wonder, “what the hell would I do?!” After seeing what these brave souls go through, I bet you don’t even complain about the subtitles.
Society of the Snow will provoke a stillness in its audience due to the grounded humanity of its characters. The relatively unknown actors give such exceptional performances that you feel like you’re right beside them in this unfathomable nightmare. While man vs. wild films can be tough to watch, this true story shouldn’t go unseen. Using close-ups to convey the rawness of these harrowing experiences, director J.A. Bayona does a fantastic job creating an emotional yet inspirational voyage of survival, supported by a powerful score from Michael Giacchino.
When it comes to tales of human survival, it doesn’t get much more horrifying than Society of the Snow. Director J.A. Bayona’s new drama is an unflinching portrayal of human desperation, showing just how hellish a battle against the elements can become. The film kept me on the edge of my seat for the most part, but I’ll admit the third act began to lose me a little. It has a moving conclusion, but it really takes its time getting there. Still, the acting is impressive, the cinematography is stunning, and the haunting score is beautiful. Society of the Snow is a solid start to the year.