Long haul truckers race to the rescue in an action-packed, blue-collar thriller. The Ice Road follows the frantic response to a mine collapse deep in the Canadian tundra. Liam Neeson comes to Netflix as a recently fired trucker who’s enlisted for the dangerous drive. The Ice Road has its fair share of clichés, but also surprises with several unexpected twists. The tension remains taut throughout as the perspective switches back and forth from the trapped miners to the frozen road.
The story begins at a diamond mine near the arctic circle in Canada. René Lampard (Holt McCallany) goes underground to check methane readings in tunnel six. As he berates the miners for lax safety procedures, a methane pocket explodes and traps twenty-six men under tons of rubble. Mining Executive George Sickle (Matt McCoy) sees the explosion from his office. The company launches rescue operations, but cannot get to the miners. They have thirty hours before their oxygen runs out.
In North Dakota, Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) has a Hail Mary plan to save the miners. The rescue equipment is too heavy to be flown to the mine. He can lead a team of three big rigs across the dangerous Canadian ice. Each truck would weigh twenty-five tons, an extremely risky endeavor in places where the frozen lakes would be mere inches thick.
Mike McCann (Liam Neeson) and his brain-damaged brother, Gurty (Marcus Thomas), have just been fired from their jobs for fighting. Goldenrod enlists the McCanns and a rebellious Cree Indian trucker, Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), whose brother (Martin Sensmeier) is one of the trapped miners. Along with Varnay (Benjamin Walker), the company’s insurance actuary, they team up on the rigs and motor towards the mine. They soon discover that time is not their only adversary.
The film has multiple concurrent subplots. Some of which are a bit overblown. I’ll focus on the McCann brothers as the most problematic. Gurty has aphasia, a speech and expression disorder, from his injuries as a soldier in Iraq. Mike has to decipher his brother’s communication and defend him from bullies. This is the emotional base of the plot, but it frankly becomes contrived. Gurty can’t stand up to mean co-workers. But can pummel bad guys in hand-to-hand to combat; while driving a truck. It’s a long stretch that really doesn’t make any sense.
The Ice Road nails the big rig action. You’ll get your semi on in spades here. Writer/director Jonathan Hensleigh (Kill the Irishman, The Punisher) keeps the trucks front and center at all times. The sixteen wheelers battle through inclement weather, extreme terrains, and fierce assaults from ruthless thugs. The fighting on the rigs, as they skate across the ice packs, delivers legitimate thrills. The film does have an issue with unrealistic CGI effects. Snowstorms and avalanches look computerized. That said, the CGI doesn’t detract from the overall scope of the action. The truck scenes look good and that’s the film’s most important aspect.
I enjoyed seeing Liam Neeson in this change-of-pace role. He doesn’t fire a single shot or take down antagonists with expert martial arts. Neeson pulls off the gritty, working class hero. The Ice Road is an entertaining action flick, and two hour commercial for Kenworth trucks. The film is produced by Code Entertainment, ShivHans Pictures, and Envision Media Arts. It will premiere globally June 25th on Netflix.
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