Society of the Snow (2023)

‘Society of Snow’ will leave you hungry and cold

I’ve never been a fan of writer-director J.A. Bayona (“The Impossible,” “A Monster Calls”), and “Society of the Snow,” his dull, belabored tale of survival of the fittest does nothing to alter that opinion.

If you were alive in the late autumn of 1972, you’ll likely recall the shocking news that some two dozen survivors of a plane crash in the snowbound Andes kept themselves alive for two months by dining on their deceased travel companions. It’s a tale that’s been told before, most notably in the 1993 hit, “Alive.”

This version, penned by a swarm of writers, including Bayona, is a more accurate version of events that dispenses with the fabricated drama present in “Alive.” Normally, that would be a good thing. But not here, as an array of nondescript actors goes through the motions of debating the ethics of what to consume after the plane’s supply of snacks has depleted.

With a few exceptions, the group consists of male members of a national rugby team on its way to a tournament when the tricky Andes wind currents brought the plane down as if it were a toy. The event is thrillingly re-enacted via spectacular special effects showing both the plane and some of its passengers breaking up into pieces as they bounce wildly down the snow-covered slope like an out-of-control bobsled.

The problem with this Oscar-nominated Netflix production is that after the initial excitement, the film settles into a tedious, predictable slog that did not need to be 145 minutes long.

You feel every second of it, as the ensemble of no-name actors fuss about doing what you’d expect: setting up a radio, making the most of what’s left of the fuselage and contemplating whether God will curse them if they resort to eating one other. Not surprisingly, a few of them would rather starve.

There are elements of suspense, particularly when – adding insult to injury – their makeshift shelter is buried by an avalanche. But we already know going in that 16 of them will eventually be rescued.

Once they are choppered off the mountain, I expected the survivors to face a host of uncomfortable questions about their fight for survival and how it will continue to weigh on their consciences. Bayona just isn’t interested. Basically, the film ends just as it’s entering its most fascinating phase – the aftermath. Go figure. One thing is for sure, you won’t see this disaster offered as an inflight movie choice anytime soon.

Movie review

Society of the Snow

Rated: R for brief graphic nudity, violent and disturbing material

Cast: Enzo Vogrincic, Agustín Pardella, Matías Recalt, Esteban Bigliardi, Diego Vegezzi

Director: J.A. Bayona

Writer: J.A. Bayona,  Bernat Vilaplana, Jaime Marques, Nicolás Casariego and Pablo Viersi based on a book by Viersi

Runtime: 145 minutes

Where: On Netflix

Grade: C

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