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January 4, 2023 / Netflix

Starring: Enzo Vogrincic, Matías Recalt, Agustín Pardella, Esteban Bigliardi

Directed By: J.A. Bayona

In 1972, the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, chartered to fly a rugby team to Chile, catastrophically crashes on a glacier in the heart of the Andes. Only 29 of the 45 passengers survived the crash and finding themselves in one of the world’s toughest environments, they are forced to resort to extreme measures to stay alive.

Written By Darren

Rating 4 out of 5

Society of the Snow is a harrowing tale of survival that is expertly directed by J. A. Bayona that is not for the faint of heart, but with a great ensemble cast and a directorial prowess that captures all the emotions of this story, makes for one of the last great films of the year.

J. A. Bayona leaves behind the world of blockbusters, after recently directing the first two episodes of Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and returns to the disaster genre that he last visited with his first English language film with 2012’s The Impossible. This time, Bayona tackles the story of the 1972 Uruguayan Air Force Flight that crashed into the Andes Mountains in Argentina and the struggle for survival that those who survived the crash faced. It’s not the first time this story has been told on screen, having been previously adapted into two films and the subject of many documentaries, but Bayona’s adaptation of the true life events never for a second miss the underlying human themes of survival, hope and resilience that made the media call what happened a “miracle” against the dazzling special effects and nerve wracking action sequences that make this an unforgettable cinematic experience.

The story that Bayona tells in this film is truly unforgettable, and one that taps into every emotion that humanity is capable of. It’s a harrowing tale of survival and the extent that we as humans will go to stay alive in some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Within the story, themes of resilience and comradery are grappled with as we watch the survivors of the plane crash fight against the weather and elements to stay alive despite having no sources of food or water. The resilience and bond between the characters forms the heart of the story, as you quickly grow to care for these individuals through the personal interactions they share with one another, making the pain and suffering they go through that more traumatic. It all builds to that triumphant ending to the story with a rousing sense of relief for those who survived, capturing the “miracle” they all witnessed that day all those years ago.

Through Bayona’s direction, there is a chilling tension and realism that looms over the entire film as you watch the survivors have to make unthinkable decisions and survive grueling conditions. Never for a second does Bayona shy away from the hard reality faced by the survivors, with outstanding action-esque sequences propelled by great special effects such as the plane crash during the film’s first act, or the portrayal of cannibalism in the film. While the subject of “cannibalism” is a loaded topic, Bayona portrays the realities of what the survivors did to survive with a realism and respect towards all those involved, never sugar coating the situation but not showing the acts head on, instead grappling with the moral dilemma of the entire situation. By doing so, the gravity of what the survivors endured is never lost, giving the film a realism that you can’t shake as you watch the unthinkable and see the remnants of it throughout the rest of the film. It’s not an easy watch by any means, but Baynoa and his co-writers of the screenplay find the right balance between showing the actions of the extremes endured for survival and the philosophical and moral consequences that help to create a compelling drama.

Supporting Bayona’s vision for the entire film is a great cast. While the screenplay chooses to focus on three characters to tell the story, every single member of the cast does a good job while on screen. There is a true camaraderie between them that brings to life the bonds between the individuals on the mountain, making each loss and success tug on the audiences’ heart strings. Aided by shooting on location in the Andes and Sierra Nevada region, you never feel like you are watching the cast give performances; the energy they bring to the film makes it feel like you are watching a real struggle for survival on screen. Carefully guiding the film from the opening shot to its final moments is Enzo Vogrincic Roldán’s character’s narration, allowing the film to alternate between terrifying occurrences and personal reflection and resilience, as Numa reminds the audience of the underlying emotion of the entire story. It helps to build towards the swelling of relief at the end of the film, while reminding of the tragic loss of life and haunting memories that will remain with the survivors for the rest of their lives. There is no doubt that this is a dramatic liberty taken by the film, as Numa claims to speak for all those who did and did not survive the ordeal, but it is one that provides a nuance and spiritualism to the film that sets it up to be a tear jerker throughout.

While watching the film, the musical score instantly washes over you with heavy percussion to create an urgency and sense of danger to the events on screen, while the choral elements help to build the emotional weight of the events. It’s an impressive composition that helps drive the film from start to finish, delivering some truly majestic moments with its swelling melodies especially during the film’s final moments, while also playing against the audiences’ expectations and holding back and playing quieter and softer where most composers would go all out to great dramatic effect. So when the name Michael Giacchino appears in the credits being the film composer, it comes as no surprise that he has created such an incredible musical score that ranks among one year’s best. Throughout, the musical score is a vital main player in the storytelling, one that this film needs to become the powerful experience it strives to be.

Unbelievable true stories deserve unforgettable film adaptations, and that is exactly what J. A. Bayona has done with Society of the Snow. Through a wonderful mix of human emotion, resilience and some truly grueling sequences that captures the struggle that the survivors of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight faced in the Andes Mountains, Society of the Snow is truly a breathtaking experience from start to finish. Brought to life by mesmerizing special effects, a magnificent musical score from Michael Giacchino and stellar direction from J. A. Bayona, Society of the Snow is a harrowing but uplifting cinematic experience that pays tributes to those lost and those who survived the deadly Uruguayan Air Force Flight plane crash in a truly excellent film that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

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