Film review – The Ice Road

Dendy, Hoyts and Limelight Cinemas Canberra
From Thursday 12 August 2021
Rated M, 109 minutes

This action-packed drama about a desperate rescue mission to save miners trapped underground after an explosion was inspired by Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic 1953 French thriller, The Wages of Fear. And it is just as suspenseful.

The Wages of Fear and the 1977 US box office flop, Sorcerer, were both based on George Arnaud’s 1950 novel, Le Salaire de la peur and involved two trucks setting out over rough roads in South America to deliver highly volatile explosives needed to put out an oil fire.

In this Netflix version of the story, written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, three semi-trailers must traverse thawing ice roads to deliver heavy equipment essential to the rescue of those trapped in a diamond mine in northern Canada after a methane explosion..

The trucks are crewed by Mike McCann (Liam Neeson) his brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), a gifted mechanic and Iraq war veteran suffering from PTSD; trucking company boss Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne); and First Nations activist Tantoo (Amber Midthunder). To her disgust, Tantoo is required to take along insurance assessor Tom Varney (Benjamin Walker).

It soon becomes apparent that someone is sabotaging the mission. But who and why? There’s action and suspense a-plenty as Mike and the team are forced to conquer stalled engines, cracking ice, violent pressure waves, explosions, trucks falling into freezing waters, white-outs, and an avalanche.

Apart from the universal theme of good versus evil, the film deals with a number of important issues, including global warming, corporate greed, the treatment of First Nations people and and the mistreatment of war veterans. Hensleigh also draws on Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men to establish the relationship between Mike McCann and his damaged brother.

While I can’t comment on whether the depiction of ice driving is authentic, the special effects are impressive, and the director appears to have paid close attention to detail – right down to the correct use in dialogue of metric distances and the spelling “centre” rather than the US “center”.

The Ice Road deserves its big-screen release, though it is already available on the Netflix platform in the US.

Thanks to Ned & Co for the opportunity to review The Ice Road.

starring Liam Neeson