Lost in the Reel’s video review for Society of the Snow

The story of the rugby team whose plane crashed In the Andes and the survivors resorted to cannibalism, is a well-known story that has been retold in many forms, most notably in Frank Marshall’s 1993 film Alive.  Honestly, I don’t know how many people were clamoring to see this story redone in another movie… I know I certainly wasn’t.  But, when I heard that director J.A. Bayona, who directed another true-to-life survival tale in the sensational The Impossible, was behind Society of the Snow, I immediately became much more interested.  And what Bayona does with this gut-wrenching, but ultimately life-affirming story… Is turn it into something far less concerned about the shocking cannibalism that had to occur but the power of the human spirit to endure.


Society Of the Snow follows the true story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. Which was chartered to fly a rugby team to Chile, when it crashes on a glacier in the heart of the Andes. Only 29 of the 45 passengers survived the crash. Finding themselves in one of the world’s toughest environments, they are forced to resort to extreme measures to stay alive.


Bayona showed in The Impossible that he knows how to stretch a budget to provide epic, heart-stopping, and jaw-dropping set pieces.  The scene in that latter film when the tsunami had just hit and our heroes are being whipped and torn in the rapids of the aftermath, is probably one of the most impressive sequences of filmmaking magic I have ever seen.  And Bayona is able to put together set pieces that are equally as impressive in Society of the Snow. There were so many moments in this film that left me shaken, completely breathless and asking myself “How the hell were they able to pull that scene off?” 

It shows what a visionary director Bayona is. Because it all feels so effortless and raw, yet technically extremely difficult to re-create.  In a perfect world he would be more in the conversation for Best Director at the Oscars… He deserves that distinction with this movie.

But, besides Bayona’s keen eye, he is also able to pull off something miraculous with the screenplay he co-wrote.  Without much of any exposition at all, Society of the Snow does an incredible job of throwing us into the psyche of these characters. And allow us to get to know them one by one and pay equal respect to the living and the dead.  It is not an easy feat trying to introduce an audience to 29 different characters all at once in such a short period of time, but the screenplay does an admirable job of doing so.  We really start to feel for each of these men and women. Every time a name appears on the screen as a declaration of a character’s passing, it is like a gut punch that you cannot shake.  


One thing that Bayona never skimps on and something I believe he does so well in whatever genre he is working in, is injecting heart and emotion into his film.  And he does so, without ever making it sappy.  He did it with the horror genre in The Orphanage and the fantasy genre in A Monster Calls… But, it’s a little trickier to pull it off without making it feel manufactured, in a story like this.  Yet, by the end he produces an emotional wallop that will make you feel equal parts devastated, broken and empowered.  If there ever was a perfect ending to a movie, done so respectfully and thoughtfully, it’s in this movie.  


I do have a couple of small complaints about Society of the Snow, mostly in its length.  Running at about 2 and a half hours, the film feels like a marathon. The last leg is so difficult to get through just because it’s a grueling experience to endure.  This isn’t an easy watch.  Although the cannibalism is treated In a way that’s not “in your face”, it’s still prevalent and hard to stomach.  We are watching these characters slowly wither away, clinging for their last breaths and losing all hope… it’s depressing, heartbreaking, and painful at times.  So, I don’t believe that this needed to be so long to get us to its well-known end… Because even though I admire the film and think it is a cinematic achievement, I don’t know if it’s something I’ll ever have the urge to watch again.  


Even so, Society of the Snow is a must-watch.  And if it’s coming to a theater near you… I know it’s tempting to just watch at home on Netflix… But, this is a film you want to see on the big screen.  It transports you into this experience. And although it is a harrowing and difficult one, it is so powerful and invigorating by the end.  But, does it bring anything new to the table?  My answer would be: Absolutely.  To me, this is the definitive version of this story.  Society of the Snow doesn’t rely on shock value or sensationalism to relay this tale.  It is respectful and honest with its telling, using old-school storytelling with fantastic character development and movie-making magic to relay it, instead.  If you can stomach it, don’t miss out on Society of the Snow.

Society of the Snow Premieres on Netflix January 4th, 2023.

For More Reviews, Make Sure to Stay Tuned to That Hashtag Show!

Keep Reading: