Ever since Ice Road Truckers premiered on the History Channel in 2007, I’ve been a fan of snowy programming that took my mind off the summertime humidity while living in the South. This is just one reason I was instantly drawn to Liam Neeson’s recent film, The Ice Road, as if Netflix had a tractor beam pulling me in from the heat of the Death Star’s heat.
It’s true, I enjoy EVERY possible story that involves snow, ice and frigid temperatures (especially Star Wars: Episode IV — The Empire Strikes Back!). But when you bring action and horror film elements into the equation, I’m thrilled to my core.
As the intro proclaims, ice roads formed by frozen rivers in North America are driven by 65,000 lbs. vehicles in North America. To state the dangers seems redundant, but it’s the lifeblood of remote villagers to receive supplies at certain times of the year.
In this particular tale, an explosion and subsequent cave-in within the Katka Diamond Mine has killed eight employees and 26 more are unaccounted for. Enter a down-on-his-luck ice road trucker (Liam Neeson), and his PTSD-suffering mechanic brother (Marcus Thomas), who were recently released from their former jobs. With prior experience and nothing else to lose, they form a team with their boss (Laurence Fishburn) and a live-wire Native American (Amber Midthunder), who has plenty of questionable past employment decisions (as well as trust issues).
No one’s lasted more than 30 hours within the permafrost, so time’s of the essence to save these miners and the countdown is on… Three trucks haul 25-ton wellheads while rolling across the thinning ice of a frozen lake in April. If that doesn’t warrant occupational hazard pay, then nothing will. Only a ragtag crew can pull off this type of suicide mission. It’s a Suicide Squad… built of Ice Road Truckers on a rescue mission!!!
There’s a whole lot of buildup involved, along with corporate sabotage and then Liam Neeson gets angry. Really angry. If there’s one thing I know from watching post-Star Wars prequel Neeson, you just don’t do that to his on-screen characters and get away with it.
Truckers have been the lifeblood of this country for years, now. It’s a hard job that pays well and takes up a lot of time. So, to pair that kind of work with another Bad Guy Employer, where corporate greed outweighs the lives of its employees, it just feels very familiar.
Amber Midthunder was one of the highlights of the short-lived Legion, as well as Hell or High Water, and she doesn’t disappoint here. Liam Neeson’s continued success working within the adult-oriented action-film genre via indie distributors feels like a lock with The Ice Road. Both actors have roles here where they’re fighting against the odds (and sometimes each other) just to survive. Revenge is definitely on their minds!
I had no idea this was a Jonathan Hensleigh film. I hadn’t seen anything from the filmmaker since his Punisher film, one which was filmed within the Tampa Bay area, where I was living at the time. It’s also a filmmaker who I randomly ran across while sitting in a local bar. One who I approached with some spec scripts and writing credentials. To say that I didn’t get to work with the filmmaker is an understatement during the early 2000s, but it’s also not a disappointment that his projects have not exactly been blockbuster-level successful since then.
I did enjoy my trip on The Ice Road. And I hope that Neeson and Midthunder will return to yet another frigid-themed film in the not-too-distant future. They helped make this one feel very real.