The Ax-gang battle over the Yekaterina bridge is when Snowpiercer comes into its own. The fight, and the lead up to it, are emblematic of the film’s uniqueness and use of symbolism, and is a pivotal moment for the plot.
The Ax Gang is powerfully strange. As the door to their car opens, time slows down. The music becomes distorted and discordant; loud bangs and screeches assault the ears. Dressed in black-colored butcher’s attire, tactical vests, and eyeless balaclavas, they stand still as silhouettes. The characters are stupefied by these shades, as is the audience. Bong draws their reveal out, forcing the audience to ask themselves questions like “How can they even see?” and “What’s with the fish?” These surreal elements become part of the film’s symbolic language. The gangers don’t need to see, only follow Wilford blindly. They are post-human, stopping the carnage to celebrate the new year. The entire revolt is a culling, like how the front-sectioners celebrate a bi-annual sushi day in a cull of the aquarium.
More symbolism emerges as the fight drags on. The gangers, equipped with night-vision goggles, begin to slaughter the revolutionaries in the Yekaterina tunnel. To counteract their technological superiority, the revolutionaries call upon the most primal of forces: fire. A promethean blaze is rushed from the tail-end, giving the tail-sectioners the advantage. This destructive and disruptive element was not part of the culling plan. Chris and his out-of-control revolt threatens to metaphorically and literally burn whatever stability exists in the front-section.
The battle is also a major turning point in the film. Edgar’s death is heart wrenching to Chris (even more so in light of their history). Namgoong’s suspicions about the melting ice are confirmed. Franco the Elder is set to become a vengeful revenant. The unscrupulous Mason is captured and quickly goes turncoat.
Do you think loading one scene with so much emotional and logistical weight is effective?