Ice roads are long stretches of frozen bodies of water that are traversed through the winter periods in the coldest regions of North America by truckers to deliver equipment. The roads are treacherous, and the job is oftentimes described as a suicide mission. So naturally, Netflix had to make a film about it. The Ice Road is a Netflix original film directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, and starring Liam Neeson (Mike), Laurence Fishburne (Goldenrod), Marcus Thomas (Gurty), Amber Midthunder (Tantoo), and Benjamin Walker (Varnay).
The Ice Road tells the perilous story of a group of truckers who must haul major equipment across the Ice Roads in under 30 hours in order to save a group of minors who are trapped as the cavern slowly floods with gas. The catch, however, is that it’s April and the roads have been closed by government officials. It’s a race against time in this action-adventure movie, with another party interested in stopping that delivery at all costs.
The premise of this film felt like it could be highly tantalizing. A real-life, first-person view of a profession that is fraught with danger every step of the way. Added onto that, the trailer gave the perception of this genuinely intense movie that would absolutely be worth a watch. Well, give the team that developed the trailer a raise, because the movie utterly fails to live up to the hype. While The Ice Road had some bright spots, and the film actually doesn’t start off too poorly, the further you delve the less interesting the story feels as it just limps to its somewhat predictable conclusion.
The Netflix original was able to cast some fantastic names, and it’s noteworthy to see Neeson and Fishburne together on screen. That said, the writing is pretty substandard, and even the acting of Neeson couldn’t save this film. Actually, while I’m a big fan of the actor, he really adds no value to the story with the representation of his character being full of angst; a weathered trucker who’s simply looking for something consistent in order to take care of him and his disabled veteran brother, who serves as Mike’s mechanic whilst on the road. Neeson has almost been typecast into these roles where the majority of performance is him angrily shouting, on a mission for retaliation. Again, the writing really lets most of the characters down as there’s just nothing of substance there for them to do anything with.
While the quality of the writing might have been sparse at best, the visuals do really well to heighten the tension of the story. Given the majority of the film is spent on these frozen bodies of water, and that this is outside of the approved seasonal period to travel them, every little detail becomes so important for the safety of the drives. There’s a clever little period of exposition where Midthunder’s character explains to the company’s insurance agent (Walker) that the truckers use bobbleheads on their dashboard as an indication for speed. Too fast and they may hit a pressure wave causing the pressure to break the ice, which will sink the truck. Too slow, and the pressure of the ice won’t bear the weight causing the ice to break and again, swallow the truck. So early in the film, when one of the truck’s engines fails while midway through the first ice road, the suspense is dramatically turned up. There are several great periods of tension through the 1 hour and 49-minute film.
There were some moments of highly unbelievable action though. One of the characters much later falls in the water only to be rescued minutes later and given a blanket with neither of the two suffering much the effects of the frozen water, or their soaked clothes. Scenes like this only further detract from the value of the film.
Overall, The Ice Road all the right variables for an interesting film, layered with tension and suspense which is only aided by the casting of Laurence Fishburne, and Liam Neeson. Ultimately though, the film’s dialogue is very poor, the performances aren’t great, and while the action is visually great, the pace of the overall film drags. It’s safe to skip this one.
The Ice Road is available now, exclusively on Netflix.
- Rating - 5/105/10
Overall, The Ice Road all the right variables for an interesting film, layered with tension and suspense which is only aided by the casting of Laurence Fishburne, and Liam Neeson. Ultimately though, the film’s dialogue is very poor, the performances aren’t great, and while action is visually great, the pace of the overall film drags. It’s safe to skip this one.
Aaron is a contributing writer at But Why Tho, serving as a reviewer for TV and Film. He is also the co-host and social media manager of the Nerds Social Club podcast.
Hailing originally from England, and after some lengthy questing, he’s currently set up shop in Pennsylvania. He spends his days reading comics, podcasting, and being attacked by his small offspring.