In an ideal world, the review for Liam Neeson’s new action-thriller would just be a single word – pedestrian. After all, if no one involved in The Ice Road had any passion about it, why should I? Oh well, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and act like a goddamn professional, so here we go.
When a remote northern Canadian diamond mine collapses, a desperate rescue mission is staged to save the miners. Three rigs are dispatched in an attempt to deliver essential heavy equipment across treacherous ice roads. For Mike McCann (Liam Neeson) and his traumatised veteran brother (Marcus Thomas) this high risk run may provide enough money to buy their own truck, but they not only have to survive the unforgiving wilderness, but someone trying to sabotage their rescue effort.
So this is The Wages of Fear (1953) on ice…and now in colour. To say that The Ice Road had no one with any passion about it working there is not entirely fair, there was enough work put in this film to bring it to the middle ground. Just the minimum effort to skate through, exactly that – no more, no less. It permeates everything about this film, from the “by the numbers” directing, to the lackluster acting. Everyone seems to be here purely for a paycheck.
What is mind boggling is how The Ice Road could be so dull? The basic concept is sound. William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977) proved it was possible to re-imagine Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic French film, and 11 seasons of Ice Road Truckers has demonstrated there’s an appetite for the setting. Yet here that is stripped down to a generic action thriller plot, with unimaginative stunts, stock characters, dull cinematography, and barely adequate computer generated effects. As a result The Ice Road is decidedly average, despite its ruggedly beautiful setting and solid basic premise.
The very definition of a “your mileage may vary” film. If you want a generic action thriller to fill in a couple of hours, this may be exactly the ticket, but for my money there’s something so deliberately formulaic and emotionless about The Ice Road that I’d prefer to watch the trip charted out in Google Maps, than to sit through this film again.