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HomeReviewsSociety of the Snow : J.A. Bayona Recreates Horrific Plane Crash

Society of the Snow : J.A. Bayona Recreates Horrific Plane Crash

Sensational stories are often adapted into films or television series. While they can be quite good and pay tribute to lives lost or tragedies endured, they can also be seen as appropriating and trivializing trauma for entertainment purposes. Making a film that manages to be enthralling and powerful while not losing sight of the real-life victims involved requires a delicate balance. Society of the Snow succeeds at accomplishing just that, revisiting an unimaginable moment from history in a manner that emphasizes honor rather than opportunism.

In 1972, a Uruguayan rugby team boards a flight to Chile, accompanied by family and friends. Shortly before its planned landing, the plane hits a mountain and crashes, killing 16 of its 45 passengers. Those who survive discover that they are surrounded by snow and mountains, and, when some climb to higher ground, they realize that, even if an aircraft was to fly right over them, they wouldn’t be visible. As the winter goes on and they learn that the search for the wreckage has been called off until warmer weather, the survivors decide that they may need to turn to cannibalism in order to stay alive.

Society of the Snow, Crash@Courtesy of Snow

This well-publicized true story has been adapted previously, most famously in Frank Marshall’s 1993 film Alive. It also serves as an inspiration for the current Showtime series Yellowjackets, which adds supernatural elements to its tale of a teenage female soccer team in a similar situation. This incredible story of endurance is often reduced to the horror of its passengers eating those who had died, but this interpretation focuses instead on the starkness of their surroundings and the way in which they come to inevitable conclusions that are completely understandable given the grim fate that has befallen them.

Director J.A. Bayona has previously brought a real-life tragedy to the screen with his 2012 film The Impossible, about a family surviving a deadly 2004 tsunami. While the plane crash itself in this film occupies a very small percentage of its runtime, it remains a stark and shocking moment of impact. Rather than stay with the passengers for each painful moment of their time in the freezing snow, Bayona employs a narrator to take audiences through their days and nights, often skipping time to focus on the most formative and eventful instances. While it does serve to take audiences slightly out of this immersive, terrifying prison, that distance may prove necessary given its harrowing nature and the fact that being trapped within it would be too traumatizing even as a viewer.

Society of the Snow, climbing
LA SOCIEDAD DE LA NIEVE (L to R) AGUSTIN DELLA CORTE as TINTIN in LA SOCIEDAD DE LA NIEVE. Cr. QUIM VIVES/NETFLIX © 2022

This cast includes many actors portraying the passengers, most of whom will be unfamiliar to American audiences. Yet the point of watching this film isn’t necessarily to pick out and grasp onto the individual people who either survived or didn’t survive this experience, but instead to comprehend the necessity of doing whatever had to be done and contending with the elements. The feelings of hopelessness and isolation are most potent as transmitted by the entire cast, and when there is a glimmer of optimism, it’s wonderfully refreshing and easy to cling to that light.

As Spain’s official Oscar submission for Best International Feature, Society of the Snow does a remarkable job of recreating another country’s national tragedy. The film has been shortlisted alongside other foreign entries, in addition to mentions for its memorable score by Michael Giacchino, its makeup and hairstyling, and its visual effects. This is the kind of film audiences will surely want to forget after watching due to the frightening nature of its premise, but won’t be able to so quickly thanks to the impressive efforts of all involved in front of and behind the camera.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Society of the Snow debuts on Netflix on Thursday, January 4th.

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzerhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and is a contributing writer for The Film Experience, Awards Radar, and AwardsWatch.

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