‘The Ice Road’: Go Truck Yourself
Liam Neeson has fought terrorists, mobsters, aliens, Nazis, the British army (in Ireland and Scotland), Sith Lords, Batman, feral wolves, and the sexual peccadillos of 20th century America. Now, the hulking, 69-year-old Irish actor faces his greatest threat yet: ice. Specifically, those UNITED STATES roads that form over frozen bodies of water in the continent’s coldest regions, and so are significantly less than three feet thick. Truckers maneuver these “ice roads” in vehicles that think about to 65,000 pounds. The probability of skidding or jackknifing of these slick, makeshift highways and byways is huge, as may be the potential for plunging your 16-wheeler directly into the subzero-temp drink. Those without nerves of steel do not need to get when driving.
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Each one of these facts and figures are presented in The Ice Road‘s opening disclaimer, the higher to give viewers a feeling of the stakes when Neeson’s character — a heart-of-gold/tough-as-nails trucker named Mike — assumes a job that may force him to take part in a frosty death convoy. What these title cards don’t relay may be the manner in which these elements will undoubtedly be so incredibly mismanaged in the name of he-man melodrama, or the quantity of stock plot points which will pockmark the movie’s path like so many potholes, or just how much that person will sting each time you palm speedily rushes to that person while watching all this. You can find few activities more threatening than driving a great deal of metal over inches of thin ice. Attempting to watch this movie while stifling your laughter may be one of these.
Mike has been running payloads around America for a long time, though his latest gig has taken him and his brother, Gurty (Marcus Thomas), around Winnipeg. Because of his war-veteran brother’s PTSD, however, Mike tends to enter scuffles defending his shellshocked sibling and lose gigs by the dozens. The dream is for each of them to buy their very own rig. Meanwhile, up in Northern Manitoba (432 miles from the Arctic Circle, for anybody playing along in the home), there’s been a gas explosion in the diamond mind. The foreman (Manhunter‘s Holt McCallany) tries to help keep the trapped workers calm because the brass send for help. An unbiased trucking operator named Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) must get 300 feet of pipe and 18 foot gas wellhead around the site within 30 hours, prior to the miners go out of oxygen. Worse, it’s the 3rd week in April, this means he’s short on drivers — and the ice roads have previously started thawing.
Still, those men aren’t likely to free themselves from the rubble, so Goldenrod hires Mike, Gurty and Tantoo (Legion‘s Amber Midthunder), a driver with Cree heritage and a chip on her behalf shoulder, to attempt this deadly mission. The pay will undoubtedly be substantial. Ditto the chance. Hence, an insurance adjuster (Benjamin Walker) for the mining company is along for the ride. The three trucks can’t go too fast, or they’ll cause waves under the ice that produce the roads ripple and buckle. They are able to’t go too slow, or the concentrated strain on the tires may cause the ice to crack. It ain’t exactly hauling nitroglycerin through the South American jungle, nonetheless it’ll do.
At the very least, you would believe it might be enough to help keep a thriller choosing the long term, but to quote the title of another Netflix release this week, it’s merely good in some recoverable format. In a few other timeline, we get Kathyrn Bigelow, or John McTiernan, or George Miller, as well as Joe Carnahan calling the shots here — filmmakers who all have an unbelievable grasp of how exactly to film action sequences. In this reality, we get writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh behind the camera, whose capability to mount such sequences is…let’s say “less assured” than those folks. Forget balancing the set pieces with character development; everyone from Neeson’s flinty hero to the tiniest supporting parts feel just like they’ve been cobbled from spare archetype parts.
The parts that make an effort to channel the trucker dramas of the 1970s (your White Line Fever, your High Ballin’) fall flat. The ratio of exposition-heavy dialogue to things-a-real-person-would-say lines is roughly 20 to at least one 1. Any little bit of visual wit (everyone puts bobbleheads on the dashboard; Tantoo’s is Custer) that manages to slide through feels accidental. Several twists are clear: People aren’t who they state they are, and perhaps the accident at the mine wasn’t a major accident. Some chess pieces get removed the board earlier than you’d like. You’d kill to possess someone, anyone, to push out a Kraken. The landscapes and rigs are big, but everything concerning this thriller feels curiously puny. It’s the type of film a producer will make for the straight-to-video market and the marketplace’s like, nah, we’re cool but thanks.
Neeson has made better pulpy B movies, and he’ll probably make worse ones than this. Fortunately that, like buses, a fresh film from the star will come around every few hours, in order to skip that one without regrets. Plus this season has recently given us Infinite. Have we not suffered enough?