FILM REVIEW — Revisiting the Miracle of the Andes

Published 12:02 am Friday, January 5, 2024

“Society of the Snow”

Netflix

Directed by J.A. Bayona

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Starring Enzo Vogrincic Roldán, Agustín Pardella, Matías Recalt, Carlos Paez Rodriguez, Maximilliano de la Cruz and Felipe Gonzalez Onaño

Rated R

 3 Stars

January isn’t historically known as a great month for movies. With dropping temperatures convincing audiences to stay at home, plus all those high-profile Christmas movies still playing at the multiplex, the month tends to be something of a dumping ground for Hollywood’s lesser movies.

But I am pleased to report that there are some exceptions to this disappointing trend. For example, this week sees the release of “Society of the Snow,” an engrossing survival drama that is now playing on Netflix.

This is another dramatization of the 1972 plan crash in the Andes Mountains, where a Uruguayan rugby team survived for 72 days in some of the harshest weather conditions in the world. Their story is a testament to human resilience in the face of unthinkable odds.

It’s also a story about cannibalism. There’s no point in hiding the infamous part of this story. These young men survived in part because they were willing to consume the flesh of their teammates once they had passed away.

To his credit, Spanish director J.A. Bayona gives this desperate act the serious consideration that it deserves. The young men argue about the legality of eating their dead friends.

They soulfully wonder if God could ever forgive them for committing such a monstrous act. When they do finally give into cannibalism, the filmmakers don’t sensationalize it, turning it instead into a solemn act of gratitude for their fallen comrades.

Similarly, the initial plan crash isn’t overly sensationalized. Don’t get me wrong. It’s quite brutal watching the airplane fall apart as it slams into the mountain, snapping the passengers inside like a bunch of twigs.

It’s a shocking and well-made sequence, but it doesn’t color the overall spirit of the movie.

“Society of the Snow” works best when it’s a story about young men banding together to survive what should have been a tragedy, but ended up being something of a miracle.

Indeed, the final moments when the players are reunited with their families may very well bring tears to your eyes. It ends up making you feel hopeful for these young men’s futures.

A superb musical score from Michael Giacchino creates much of this tone. He’s long been known as a great composer for his work on everything from “Mission Impossible’ to “Jurassic Park: The Lost Kingdom” to “Up,” but this score easily ranks as the one that touched my soul the most.

Finally, a note about the actors. This is originally a Spanish language film, so the filmmakers cast actors from Argentina and Uruguay. They are quite good, allowing us to commit to the ordeal in a way that might not have been possible had they cast well-known movie stars.

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if you want to watch this movie in Spanish with subtitles, or watch the version that’s dubbed into English. I think that both forms play well because the human drama at the center of this story transcends language.

More than that, it’s such a good film that it even transcends the cinematic dumping ground known as January.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.