What distinguishes Snowpiercer from other sci-fi films of its ilk is that it touches on so many themes relevant to the real world. The most obvious theme is the class struggle between the passengers of the train. However, I feel that director Joon-ho Bong goes beyond simply pointing out the disparity in social classes and uses this as a vehicle to deal with the topic of heroism; particularly, who the true hero in the film is. From the beginning of the film, it seems like Curtis is the clear protagonist. He valiantly leads the passengers in the tail of the train who feel oppressed and want change. The train is essentially a microcosm of life in a 3rd world country in that a small percentage of the population is privileged while the remainder is disadvantaged and live in squalor; there’s hardly a middle-class. Those in the front feel they deserve what they have because they paid for it while those in the back believe it’s not fair.
What Curtis fails to see is that the train is a balanced and functioning ecosystem, despite how bad the conditions were for some of the people. To tamper with this functioning ecosystem might not necessarily end well for either party. In this sense, Curtis can be seen as a terrorist as he destroys an entire society for what he feels is the greater good. His motives are good willed and he seems to be our quintessential hero until we learn more about his character. He reveals to Namgoong that he ate people during his early days on the train and knows that “babies taste best.” He also just left Edgar to die when he could have done something to try and save him. To rub salt in the wound, we learn that Curtis also killed Edgar’s mother in the past and almost ate Edgar when he was a baby! Clearly this man is not perfect, however, the film seems to intentionally not have a hero and simply have the characters be, letting the audience decide who the hero is for themselves or if there even is one. This may be why Joon-ho Bong feared mainstream audiences might reject the film but I feel this open-endedness is what makes it so powerful. Ultimately, the main question the film begs is who is the real hero?