Society of the Snow

Directed By J.A Bayona

Starring – Enzo Vogrincic, Agustin Pardella, Matias Recalt

The Plot – 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.

Rated R for violent/disturbing material and brief graphic nudity.

Society of the Snow | Official Trailer | Netflix (


There is no match for the human spirit, and through Bayona conjuring a viscerally immersive experience, full of invasive filmmaking involving masterful techniques, he grants access into this intensely grueling story in ways that make it feel bigger and better than either of the previous two screen adaptations for it. Beginning with the combination of Bayona’s own gripping direction and Pedro Luque’s breathtaking cinematography, the film vividly articulates all of the immensity and unforgiving environmental conditions that this team faces, with one of the most riveting plane crash sequences that I can remember in recent memory only beginning the conflict. It’s clear that Bayona was the right man for the job in this undertaking, especially in the respect and admiration that he has for those real life figures, even going so far as to textualize their name and age, each time one of them passes on or off-screen. From there, Bayona fearlessly taps into all of the aspects of adversity, both on and off of the plane, that the team faced, and while their road to recovery is full of brutal blows and devastating impacts that can be felt in everything from claustrophobic camera placements, to boldly blanketing sound designs, to even subtly effective make-up transforming, ratcheting all of the crushing snow and crunching bones, he never calls upon sensationalizing the story for the benefit of screen captivity, instead investing in elements of authenticity that never require embellishing to articulate just what is so impressive and inspiring about this team coming together to overcome their remarkable circumstances. With nearly two-and-a-half hours to its cause, the film is not only able to slow things down and focus on characterization in ways that bring to light so many energetic and ambitious personalities between this youthful team, but also the conversations between them, which articulate the movie’s vital message of bonding together in times of tragedy, for the sake of faith and hope that should always remain prominent. The dialogue and moral dilemmas expressed between them lead to several endearing and thought-provoking ideas that shape and alter many of our protagonists from the start of the film to its gut-wrenching finish, and while the transformations help to play into the magnitude of the time frame that they remain stranded upon, they’re believable in ways that allows their eye-opening realizations to hang over them as their metaphorical elephant in the room, where only us the audience can coherently interpret just what is next from so many clever seeds being sewn into the fabric of their many dynamics. Bayona and the production responsibly casts fresh-faced unknowns for the entirety of the ensemble, which not only helps maintain this as an ensemble-first piece where they each share the honors of handing off the movie’s focus, but also in seeing each of them as living, breathing people, instead of celebrities portrayaing a role. Sure, there are some who stand out above the rest as a result of the material they’ve been given, particularly Vogrincic’s humbling bravery that he instills to Numa’s distinguishing characteristics, but Bayona provides ample light for everyone to shine, and the film is all the more great because of it, allowing him to shift the focus of the narrative throughout forty compelling characters, in which any of them would be compelling enough to lead their own movie. Major props as well for the director finding ways to implement many factual Easter Eggs to the proceedings, in which real life survivors find their way into the film in smaller roles. It’s also scored wonderfully from one of my favorite composers going today, in Michael Giacchino, who brandishes such rich versatility and complexity to scenes and sequences that are often illustrated tonally as one cohesive direction in inferior stranded predecessors. That’s not to say that his work feels disjointed or imbalanced, just that this Uruguay team faces many unique emotions in the extent of their life-altering exploration, and Michael echoes this transformation with compositions so diverse that they do feel like they could belong in entirely different films from one another. From ominous dread overhanging the impacting crash site, which could easily score a horror movie, to electronic rifts atop the last resort rescue mission, which feel lifted from inspirational sports biopics, Giacchino adds wings and depth to all of it, serving as the orchestrator of goosebumps, who works accordingly with the aforementioned intricacy of sound designs to pair something integrally urgent to the proceedings that otherwise can go missing from a story stretching as unexpectadly long as it does. Lastly, while overhead narration often alienates me from a movie, the kind used here worked for a variety of reasons, but mostly the psychological introspection that it gives one particular character. While we experience and take what we will from many of the physical conflicts that plague our protagonists, this look internally at the bending of will and conflict of faith magnifies the scope of the stakes all the more impactfully, in turn supplanting one unique surprise to the concept that I honestly didn’t see coming, whether due to my lack of knowledge about the real life tragedy, or the fact of what narration is typically used for in these kind of movies.


As expected, the pacing eventually catches up to the experience, though nothing of consistency that dragged too heavily on my investment to the film. My biggest problematic section pertains to the middle of the second act, where for around a half hour of the movie’s run time, the inevitable repetition of the structure, the magnitude of the suffering, and grounded movements of the story left it dormant for a bit longer than I would’ve preferred, in turn leaving it as the only moments of the film where it felt the weight of its wear for the 145 minute run time. The magnitude of the story and introspection of the various internal struggles that characters are facing surely earns every bit of the run time, and I always appreciate interaction as a means of zeroing in on many of the unforeseen elements that underwhelming movies of the subgenre ignore all together, but I feel some scenes hang a bit longer than necessary, with too much time taken away from the overall bigger picture of the narrative, which occasionally it takes prolonged detours in returning to. Aside from this, my only other issue worth mentioning towards the film pertained to the magnitude of the cast of characters, which while factual on the actual real life events, didn’t make it any easier in distinguishing them one from the other when one of them passed away. Part of this aspect makes me wish the first act took its time slightly longer on the build before throwing us into the plane at around the film’s fifteen minute mark, but the film’s occasional visual references towards a memorable flashback with each respective character all but convey that they too understand the difficulty of the audience to distinguish, especially with the film focusing on many of them for the focus of the narrative. While I previously commended the film for including as many of the characters as possible in establishing this as an ensemble piece, part of me wonders if focusing on a distinct few would’ve been the recommended route, especially because so few of them resonated deeply within my emotional pallet, any time the film flashed their name and age at time of death.

“Society of the Snow” is a remarkably chilling descent into human drive and resiliency, especially in the depths of J.A Bayona’s riveting direction frequently putting his cast of characters through the ringer. With masterful filmmaking in every technical component, intriguing conversations that test the moral dexterity of fighting for your life, and a ruthless execution that is as close to unforgiving as what the real life heroes persisted through, the film is a grueling test of will that occasionally transcends to documentarian, leaving us the first great film of 2024, or the last great film of 2023, depending on when you’re fortunate enough to experience it.

My Grade: 8/10 or A-

4 thoughts on “Society of the Snow

  1. What an incredible story! This one has been getting a lot of buzz leading up to its release, and I can see why in your glowing review! I couldn’t imagine having to endure being out in the elements for that long of a time, and having the will to survive no matter the cost. I know they did this story with the movie “Alive”, but I agree that using unknown actors gives you more of an ambiguity as to who will survive the ordeal. Excellent review!!

  2. Superb review! I never saw Alive (is it worth seeing?) but learning this was a true story helped me stay engaged to the movie. I’m happy to hear you also felt the length and pacing could have been improved. I also lost track of the characters and their deaths and associating them to which moments. I also was so distracted by how much they smoked! Great snapshot for the times and truly makes me wonder if there would have been that many survivors if they didn’t have that many cigarettes with them on the plane. Great writing!

  3. Though I did go a smidge lower than you, I do see why it has some Oscar potential for best international film since it impresses on multiple levels, especially when it comes to the uncompromised delivery of the earnest direction and the physically demanding performances from the entire cast. That said, the middle of the second act that you mentioned weighed even heavier for me not only in the length but even the repetition of what was being. And while I feel bad for the entire group collectively, I will say that I found it hard to gravitate toward individual characters so I did feel a bit disconnected. Nonetheless, I still see the praises for this one and I loved reading your invigorating analysis. Excellent job!

  4. Good evening Film Freak,
    I read quite a few of your reviews but not all….I will say I read this one and watched the movie and I believe your score or grade was off a bit….I believe it was a solid A and am so thankful for your review. I will watch it again….its been a long time since I shed a tear watching a movie….I would have Not watched this one had it not been for your review. Great job! Keep up the great work!!!

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