Clocking in at 145 minutes, Netflix’s Society of the Snow is, in a couple of ways, a little more than gross. It tells the story of a group of airline passengers who are down and out, also in more ways than one.
It’s a tragic tale, and one that’s difficult to ignore: A downed plane, its inhabitants lost in the mountain wilderness for far too long. Tensions flare. Violence seems imminent. Really, the only thing that could make things worse would be the revelation that the whole thing actually happened. Anyway, funny story:
Society of the Snow: Truth or fiction?
It is an unfortunate fact that Society of the Snow takes its name and plot from the 2008 book of the same name, which recounted the honest-to-goodness true story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. It’s not a particularly fun one.
On October 13, 1972, a chartered flight carrying 45 passengers and crew over the Andes mountains ran into trouble when its still-green copilot misread the plane’s instruments, thinking that he’d missed his turn. His attempt to correct the error led to the aircraft being flown into the side of a mountain, losing its wings and tail and sending those inside careening down the mountain’s side. The crash’s survivors, including members of a Uruguayan sports team, would spend the next 72 days struggling to persist in a harsh, nigh-uninhabitable climate while they waited for rescue. Not everyone would make it, and unthinkable choices had to be made. No spoilers, but things got bleak, even nightmarish.
If all of this sounds too spectacular to be real – and not a little familiar – there’s a reason. The “Andes flight disaster,” as it came to be known, became easy fodder for sensationalist television and movies. It would go on to inspire the Showtime series Yellowjackets, the 1993 thriller Alive, and even an episode of Rick and Morty. Half a dozen high-profile books, untold hours of true crime podcasts, and – no kidding – an opera are all centered around the fate events surrounding Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571.
But few of them seemed to receive the same level of praise as Society of the Snow. Directed by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s J. A. Bayon with the consultation of actual Flight 571 survivors, the Spanish language drama has been steeped in positive reviews since premiering at 2023’s Venice International Film Festival, garnering a 90% critical approval and Certified Fresh status on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s currently available to stream on Netflix.