While I would not call this film a classic by any means, it certainly does entertain more than most films that premiere on Netflix.
Written and Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh
Starring Liam Neeson, Benjamin Walker, Amber Midthunder, Marcus Thomas, Holt McCallany, Martin Sensmeier, Matt McCoy,
Matt Salinger, Laurence Fishburne
The Ice Road is a solid film in the same vein as many films in the 1970’s. Neeson is Mike, a humble, working class hero who is hindered by his love of a heroic but disadvantaged brother, Gurty (Thomas). A mining disaster happens due to corporate overreach (mid level, not top brass) and they scramble, apparently, to save the lives of those remain behind. This is compounded by the lack of wellheads (still not sure what they are) on hand in the remote location where the miners are trapped. This equipment needs to be sent across a frozen tundra of Manitoba.
This tundra also includes travelling over giant bodies of water that have been frozen over with massive semi-trucks. A reward of $200,000 for the completion of the job, with the amount going to those who survive with their trucks to deliver the payload. Once we see the semis loaded for bear going over the water for the first time, we know it’s going to be a wild ride.
The action of the film is sharp and looks great. It’s unclear if they are always following the laws of physics regarding ice, but there is enough tension there to make the viewer approach the edge of their couch. It’s worth watching for this more than anything.
The plot, on the other hand, borders on the ridiculous. The portrayal of Gurty is basically whatever the plot needs at the time. If there is no real feeling of a complete human in Thomas’ portrayal, at least he doesn’t chew the scenery unnecessarily. There are some moments that are silly no matter what level of understanding Gurty retains.
Midthunder covers familiar ground effectively as Tantoo. She is added to the team with just enough backstory to make it interesting when things start to go awry. Her performance is solid as a Native American woman whose competence is matched by her drive. Fishburne is there long enough to make the impression one makes when they’re trying to sell the importance of the mission.
Benjamin Walker is a nice surprise as Varnay whose motives get murkier as the film proceeds. His eventual turn as the bad guy is effective because he has the kind of expression that can turn from clueless to deadly on a dime. He has the presence of a stage actor, and that gives the B-movie plot a boost that other, more obvious actors like McCoy (aka Lloyd Braun) cannot.
After they leave the ice, the film is only as interesting when Neeson is pitted against Walker. While I would not call this film a classic by any means, it certainly does entertain more than most films that premiere on Netflix.