A Movie Without a Hero

When watching a movie, I often find myself searching for someone to root for, like a hero of some sort. I am looking for the “good guy” and the “bad guy” of the film, yet as I watched Snowpiercer, trying to decide who should be considered good and who should be considered bad proved difficult, impossible even. We have Curtis, who for most of the movie I saw as the protagonist. We even have other people hinting at Curtis being the leader of the people at the back of the train whenever the day comes that Gilliam dies. However, as the movie progresses, we see a darker side of Curtis.

For example, we see him choose capturing Mason over saving Edgar’s life, which I saw as the first sign that Curtis was not a typical hero. Curtis merely turning his back on Edgar surprised me, for I am used to a hero being selfless and compassionate. In most movies, Curtis seeing Edgar having a knife to his throat would have stopped him dead in his tracks. The moment Curtis turns his back, a shot of Edgar and the guard threatening his life is shown in which even the guard is stunned that Curtis gave no concern. The man, who ended up killing Edgar, being shocked that Curtis did not come back for his friend further amplifies this awareness that not every hero chooses good all the time. Later, we see Curtis shoot Mason, who was unarmed, with her death being strictly revenge for Gilliam’s death. We are faced with a hero who is not solely focused on choosing what is right all the time. A girl in class worded it perfectly in that it is not always black and white; there is some grey area.

We also have Gilliam, who for most of the movie is seen as this hero, and even more so when Curtis talks about how life was at the back of the train in the beginning. Curtis put Gilliam on a pedestal, solely because he gave his own limbs so others could live. Curtis putting Gilliam on a pedestal causes the viewers to do the same. The moment Wilford tells Curtis that Gilliam was part of the plan all along, I refuse to believe it. I mean, the scene before we have Curtis glorifying Gilliam, and now, we have Wilford tearing this image down. After getting past my state of denial and also listening to the discussion in class about the possibility of Gilliam actually being a part of it all, I began to question it as well. Was Gilliam a part of the scheme of decreasing the population? If so, why? Every time I come back to the possibility of him being a part of it, I cannot ever come up with the why. Why would he sacrifice his limbs? Why would he live the way he did? Why would he let his people die? Unfortunately, I am left with these unanswered questions.

So, if Gilliam was part of it all, can he still be seen as this glorified person who saved Curtis from himself, or does his image become tainted and him left as simply an evil person? And, as I question this, I also question if there even is a good guy, or in other words, who is the hero, if there is one? Even with his faults, I believe the hero could be Curtis. This movie opens up the concept of a hero who may not always do the right thing, but overall he, or she, is working towards doing the right thing. For Curtis, he saw the unjustness of living at the back of the train; not only that, he lived it. He knew what failing meant, so he did his best to prevail. Yet, even as I believe that Curtis could be the hero, I honestly believe there is no hero at all. Even though in the end, Curtis showed he is selfless and willing to sacrifice his life for others, I think the point was to show there does not always need to be a hero.


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