How does one become a leader? A true leader, not the political ones. What do you consider as leadership material? Think about the masses all the time, putting the people’s needs first, take the first step even though it may be towards certain death, make sacrifices along the way… The list could go on depending on the type of leader you’d want you to bear the torch for you. In Snowpiercer, Curtis (Chris Evans) has all the above qualities but won’t agree that he’s the leader. Do we keep asking why is he denying the fact? Obviously, he’s the brains and the brawn of ‘The Great Curtis Revolution’ as it is called in the movie.
After Humans do some stupid shit as always to counter Global warming by spraying a chemical in the upper atmosphere, Earth is propelled into the worst Ice Age ever known. Civilization collapsed, Countries turned into the white ice wastelands with concrete pillars. Humanity is saved by the magnificent, benevolent ‘Wilford’ who was a full-time billionaire and part-time locomotive enthusiast (guys who climax while watching or learning about trains). He predicts the outcome of the artificial cooling of the Earth. So, he is too kind, built a self-sustaining train which circles around the globe once a year and sold the tickets of the train to the rich. But he also made room for thousands of less fortunate people in the literal back of the train.
Curtis also boarded the back train along with thousands of others crammed into few hundreds of square feet. They’re treated like nothing less than slaves and after 17 years and multiple revolutions that are suppressed without mercy, Curtis starts his own revolution to bring equality to his people with the guidance of an old kind man (Gilliam) and to kill Wilford.
If you’re thinking “Okay, so he leads a revolution… and of-course every revolution has a struggle.”, think again. While I nod to the presence of physical struggle and conflict in the movie, the most fascinating thing is the internal struggle of Curtis. The Job of a real leader is tough. No one really wants it, but everybody suggests this is better, you could’ve done this. A real leader doesn’t boasts of his position, power and the things he could do because he knows that not everything goes as planned. Knowing that sacrifices have to be made along the way losing our dearest in the name of a revolution.
Curtis never once agrees he’s the one that should take his people to the front of the train. He sought Gilliam’s advice and acts accordingly. Because he knows even though he’s capable of handling it, he’s struggling with the fact inside that he was a savage once till he met Gilliam. He ate people to survive in the early days of the train. And he hated himself for knowing that babies tasted better. He even killed mothers to get his hands on the kids to eat.
The Struggle of the Snowpiercer
These are the most morally, ethically, socially and humanly disgusting things you can think of. Still, you won’t know these things till the end. Till then, we only see Curtis as the leader who was shy of accepting the power and responsibility. But when you get to know the Curtis that ate kids to survive, we might judge him immediately. Then, if we can, we’ll possibly try to understand the obvious signs he gave us along the way that pointed that he wasn’t an ideal human much less a leader. Most of us might be like ‘understand him?, he ate Humans. What more do you want to despise him?’. Yes, his past was dark, dehumanising and possibly, just possibly natural. What is natural? A Pride of Lion always tries to hunt a baby Antelope because they know big ones aren’t to be fucked with. But we explain in such a way that it is natural, Lions keeps the balance. Hunting for food is survival no matter the victims.
Peacocks dance… the most fucked up thing we can say about them. Just because a bird’s colors are entertaining to us, we make them the centre of our romanticized world. Women are compared with them. A Peacock is presenting himself to get a chance to mate with her. That’s the truth of it. But you won’t feel anything when I say the truth. Don’t agree? Everybody hates Vultures, Hyenas. Why?? They steal. More importantly, they are ugly. And everybody hates an ugly thief. Why even a Fox steals. But as a Fox’s got a personality, we let it slide.
Anyway, all this is to prove that we judge ugly things. The ugly doesn’t have to be a physical thing. Till the end, we love Curtis, we agree with him, we clap when he kills the evil lady. But as soon as we get to know the ugly things he did like he ate kids and also have killed his ward’s mother (Edgar’s mother) while Edgar was a baby, the tables are turned. Some might even hate him. But most don’t. That’s the brilliance of the movie. When you travel with a stranger (Curtis) looking for a villain (Wilford) and it turns out that the stranger also has committed some crimes, you’ll try and side with him. Because now, along with the quest to search the villain, you’re invested in this person emotionally, personally. You want to satisfy yourself with an alternative explanation like ‘he did what he did to survive. And he regrets it. It’s not like he actually enjoyed what he did. What more do you want?’
The question of the day isn’t “How well do you know a person to judge him?”, the real question should be “Should we judge a person at all without ever experiencing remotely closer to what he did?”. And while we’re at it, should we judge ourselves? The past moulds our future. The experiences you’ve had, the situations you’ve been through, the choices you’ve made and the person you’ve chosen to define you. It’s all about the future. You’ll be better off leaving the past behind. Never forget it but never carry it either.