Review: 'The Ice Road' (2021) Dir. Jonathan Hensleigh
A particular set of skills is required to traverse the dangerous ice roads of Canada in a life or death mission to save trapped miners, and Liam Neeson is the only man for the job...
After a mine collapses following an explosion in Manitoba, Canada, the group who own the mine call in expert ice-road truckers to deliver rescue equipment as quickly as possible through dangerous terrain.
Jim Goldenrod (Fishburne) leads a convoy driven by Mike McCann (Neeson) and Tantoo (Midthunder) who are professional rig drivers, joined by McCann's brother Gurty (Thomas) and company risk assessor Varnay (Walker).
With Mother Nature at their mercy, the truckers must use their skill to battle the elements and drive the heavy rigs through the ice-roads. But it's not long before disaster strikes, and McCann is the first to realise that someone doesn't want the miners saved at all...
"It's not about money now. This is personal," growls Liam Neeson over one hour into 'The Ice Road'. Until now he's been battling the dangerous Canadian Manitoba winter roads, but when the mission turns into something far more deadlier than expected, Neeson's trucker Mike McCann is determined to see it through and expose the deception behind it. Even when the narrative explodes into one of corporate conspiracy and trigger happy thugs for hire, director Jonathan Hensleigh maintains the thrills, impressive action sequences and character motives right to the end without missing a beat.
With a resume that includes writer of films such as Die Hard with a Vengeance, Armageddon and The Punisher, Hensleigh makes sure to keep us hooked on the story from the opening, and doesn't stray too much for us to lose interest. Viewers familiar with popular reality show Ice Road Truckers will at least be familiar with the notorious setting we are treated to; a winter road of ice that can only be navigated by rig experts, often with fatal consequences if Mother Nature is in a bad mood.
When a mine collapses and traps those inside, Neeson is hired for his unique set of (driving) skills along with Laurence Fishburne, Amber Midthunder, Marcus Thomas and Benjamin Walker to transport rescue equipment to the mine. But it won't be just the ice road that presents danger.
The setting across the ice road is wonderful; it's shot brilliantly and fronts three 18-wheeler rigs in a light not seen in films for years such as Smokey and the Bandit and Black Dog
It's a thrill seeing these hulking machines carry such immense power, thundering across the terrain. With the setting being a wintry Canadian wilderness, kudos to the stunt team and camera crew for using these rigs for some real heavy action. Crashing, skidding, drifting, toppling - you name it, they do it all with our leads as convincing men and women born to drive and survive. It's this that adds much of the thrill and excitement to proceedings.
Being a Neeson action film, the unique setting and action lets him act for most of the part and use his character relationships more than a pistol (and he only does once here). There is a wonderful bond with on-screen brother Thomas who plays a veteran with severe mental issues that hamper him in many ways, but doesn't put him out of the running,and Neeson is both brother and carer. It will become obvious to those familiar with these sort of films that not everyone is who they seem, but the pacing doesn't dip as a few unexpected moments keep things exciting right to the end. Even when we are treated to Neeson dishing out his personal vengeance, the elements still prove a threat and we aren't allowed to forget the wintry danger around them.
A great cast work together well, even if one is criminally wasted after just half an hour, and this is more about relationships over battling bad guys. Neeson is on another high with these films that allow him to act and get stuck into some high-octane drama, not just now shooting and breaking necks. He's fast turning into a go-to Clint Eastwood of his generation for short, sharp and thrilling action films with some pathos behind them, and he helps make this an entertaining watch.
Another solid Neeson offering, proving his action status still rides high along with his talent as actor, more powerful here than bullets. Fast paced, dangerous and exciting - and that's just the rigs!
'The Ice Road' is a co-production between The Solution Entertainment Group, CODE Entertainment, ShivHans Pictures, Envision Media Arts, Aperture Media Partners and
Manitoba Film & Music