After the bloated pile of intelligence-insulting garbage that was F9 and years of sifting through Netflix’s woketard shit, what a pleasure it was last night to come across writer, director Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Ice Road, a solid, thoroughly entertaining, grounded, and unpretentious B-movie.
The concept is simple. The execution is sublime.
A methane explosion traps a couple of dozen workers in a diamond mine, and they’re running out of oxygen. Only a 25-ton wellcap can save them, and the only way to deliver that wellcap is by truck. The problem is the route: hundreds of miles of road carved over a frozen lake. Six weeks ago, this was no problem. Today it’s April, and that ice is melting.
Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) puts together a rescue mission and needs two other drivers for his 30-hour trek through snowy hell. The idea is to load three separate trucks with three separate wellcaps. This way, they can afford to lose two.
If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 masterpiece Wages of Fear or William Friedkin’s equally masterful 1977 remake, Sorcerer. And for the first 40 minutes or so, Ice Road is a man vs. nature thriller … until it’s not.
Neeson plays Mike, a just-fired (again) long-hauler “stuck” with his mechanic brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an Iraq veteran suffering from PTSD and aphasia. The two of them accept Goldenrod’s job for the money.
Tantoo (a scene-stealing Amber Midthunder) takes the third slot to save her brother, one of the trapped miners.
And they’re off — 65,000 pounds of semi rolling over melting ice. The rules are simple: to displace your weight, you got to keep your truck moving. If you stop, you sink. But if you drive too fast, you’ll create a deadly ice ripple that can only end in disaster. This an ingenious idea for a thriller, and it works. Yes, the (rarely used) CGI is cheap. Yes, some of the dialogue is laughable. But it’s a gripping, edge-of-your-seat 108 minutes for several reasons…
First off, the action is realistic and grounded. When trouble arrives — and it never stops arriving — it’s smarts, hard work, experience, hand tools, and brawn that saves the day, not a director who decides to ignore the laws of physics.
My favorite part of the movie, actually, was watching these guys think through their problems and then go to work with canvas straps, winch chains, heavy pipe, and that workaday ingenuity required of most blue-collar jobs. This is real life. This is how working men work. When the breakdowns occur, the tools and ingenuity come out. For example, hundreds of miles from help, the trucks are lying on their side. The movie’s over, you’re thinking. But these guys get back on the road, and the solution doesn’t feel like a cheat.
Best of all, most of the movie is actually filmed on location in Manitoba, not on a soundstage covered in green screen. So the actors are out in the elements. The cold is real, the snow is real, and the steam from their breath is not computer-generated. The stakes are also real. People are going to die.
You also care about the characters. Mike’s a good guy trying his best with the heavy load of his brother. Tantoo, Canada’s equivalent of an American Indian, walks around with a huge racial chip on her shoulder. But she’s hilarious, down-to-earth, and all heart. As far as Laurence Fishburne, watch this genius handle some of the early exposition if you want to know what great acting looks like. It’s a true master class.
Hensleigh, who wrote or co-wrote movies like Armageddon, Con-Air, and The Rock, knows how to up the stakes and keep the screws turning, which he does, but with obstacles that never feel contrived.
The best way to describe The Ice Road is a nice, smooth blend of The Wages of Fear and those terrifically entertaining trucker movies of the 1970s (White Line Fever, Convoy, The Great Smoke Roadblock) that pit the modern-day cowboy against the establishment.
It’s B-movie heaven, a real and rare treat in this anti-art age of CGI and woketardery.
Currently, The Ice Road is the #1 offering on Netflix, which tells you just how hungry the public is to be entertained instead of berated and lectured.