This 2021 action thriller reminds us that acting is a job and not all jobs are wonderful or award-winning. Some are nothing more than a paycheck. “The Ice Road” is Liam Neeson, grimacing and looking wrinkled and grimly worried and wondering, at 69, how much longer he’ll be playing an action hero.
Having been born and raised in Southern California, I’ve only been in a few places where it snowed during the winter and never stayed in such places for more than a year. I know little about living in places where you’d have to shovel snow from the sidewalk and even less about driving in the snow and on ice. Writer and director Jonathan Hensleigh (writer of the 1995 “Jumanji” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance”) doubtlessly has done research on this. At the beginning of the film, the inter titles tell us:
In the coolest region of North America, drivers traverse man-made roads over frozen rivers, lakes and oceans of ice less than 30 inches thick in 65,000 lb. vehicles.
These treks are dangerous and often fatal. Some drivers describe them as suicide mission.
These are the so-called “ice roads.”
Hensleigh wrote and directed 2011 “Kill the Irishman” about the rise and fall of Danny Greene and starred Ray Stevenson, Vincent D’Onogrio, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer.
“The Ice Road” is Hensleigh first film since “Kill the Irishman,” and also deals with dirty dealings amongst men. “Kill the Irishman” was a man who embezzled longshore union funds and was eventually murdered by the Cleveland mafia. In “The Ice Road,” 26 miners are trapped during a suspicious explosion in a Manitoba mine and the rescue mission, needs wellheads delivered to the mine. Three trucks in tactical redundancy, meaning only one needs to arrive because all are carrying the same load, are linked to each other and must travel over frozen lakes and icy roads to reach the mines before the oxygen supply is exhausted.
Mike McCann (Neeson) and his war-damaged brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), the sister of one of the trapped miners Tanoo (Amber Midthunder) and the mission leader Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) are the driving teams who are joined by insurance risk assessment actuary, Varnay (Benjamin Walker).
As you might have guessed, the icy elements isn’t their only foe. Someone means to sabotage their journey. Not all the drivers nor all the trucks will make it, but the miners will be saved. This isn’t a great action thriller nor will you be impressed by Neeson’s acting.
“The Ice Road” was released on Netflix on 25 June 2021. At 108 minutes, you have to be a real die-hard fan of Neeson or trucks or ice CGI. Otherwise, I’m sure you’ve got better things to do. This is a road best not taken, even if the chill of winter doesn’t freeze the blood in your veins and you have time to kill.