© Wild Bunch/Central

The Ice Road
U.S.A./Canada 2021

Opening 14 Oct 2021

Directed by: Jonathan Hensleigh
Writing credits: Jonathan Hensleigh
Principal actors: Liam Neeson, Marcus Thomas, Laurence Fishburne, Amber Midthunder, Benjamin Walker

In the state of Manitoba, Canada, 26 miners are trapped underground after a methane explosion in their tunnel. They have contact with the outside world, but only 36-hours’ worth of oxygen. In Pembina, North Dakota, a few miles south of the Canadian border, drivers climb into three huge Kenworth trucks full of rescue equipment and head north across frozen Lake Winnipeg and over an ancient bridge. As they set off on their 300-mile road trip, we learn more about the drivers. Mike McCann (Liam Neeson) has been fired from several jobs and needs this one. His companion is his brother, Gurly (Marcus Thomas) who is a brilliant mechanic, but suffers from aphasia or speech disorder, after being injured in Iraq while serving in the military. Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) drives the second truck. Sadly, we learn less about him as he and his truck are the first to sink into the ice and disappear. Driving the third truck is the only female in the film: Tantoo (Amber Midthunder). She is especially concerned, because her brother Cody (Martin Sensmeier) is one of the miners to be rescued. Along the way she picks up the fifth person, Tom Varnay, also called Vanny (Benjamin Walker). He has connections with the executive committee which sponsored the miners and is responsible for security at the mine.

Be prepared to sit on the edge of your seat for 103 minutes of tense excitement, as the situation becomes more dangerous and desperate, all supported by equally thrilling music. (Many of the songs pertain to trucks). The film team took on a huge responsibility, filming along real ice roads across water in below-zero weather. The three trucks, all stars in their own right, pull long trailers on 18 wheels struggling to turn. The pressure increases as we learn that this was not an accident, but someone high in the executive committee has betrayed the project for his own advantage. It’s not only the snowstorms, melting ice, and landslides which are delaying the rescue, but manipulations from above. Director Jonathan Hensleigh said that he was inspired by the 1953 French film Le Salaire de la Peur (The Wages of Fear, Der Lohn der Angst) which he watched on television when he was 10 years old. The actors are excellent; Liam Neeson is certainly well-known, but how about Amber Midthunder, a rising young actress of Native American heritage? The Canadian north is beautiful. Director Hensleigh was determined to “make it look as real as possible… like a documentary.” It’s a men’s film with problems solved by raw masculine strength, but women will love it, too. And then there is the pet mouse. (Becky Tan)

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