Jonathan Hensleigh’s The Ice Road

The Liam Neeson ice road trucking movie might not top any 2021 charts (including mine) and is admittedly an outlandishly hectic thriller but I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy every tension soaked, amped up minute of it. Neeson plays a down on his luck trucker with a special needs brother (Marcus Thomas) who is recruited by a powerful trucking boss (Laurence Fishburne) for a near suicide mission: deliver excavation parts to a remote Winnipeg mining quarry where a handful of workers have been trapped underground following a tunnel collapse. This involves navigating miles of ruthless ice road terrain with giant 18-wheel semis and someone who is trying to sabotage their mission with brutal corporate espionage at the behest of the corrupt mining company underboss (Matt McCoy). The stakes are high, the ice is thin and the sensationalism runs thick with this one; it’s not just a trucking survival thriller although those elements are handled well, it also incorporates elements of classic Neeson action fare too as their crew does battle with an almost invincible company assassin (Benjamin Walker) trying to bring them down. Neeson is reliably gritty and even displays some vulnerability while Fishburne, although sadly underused, goes by the porn-star name of ‘Jim Goldenrod’ here which alone hilariously makes up for his lack of screen time. Others make nice impressions including Amber Midthunder as a badass indigenous trucking prodigy who moonlights as a fierce activist and the always awesome Holt McCallany as the foreman of the trapped workers. The film is hectic as all hell, over-plotted and packed with incident, in addition to the hair raising ice trucking episodes we also get gunplay, snowmobile chases, surprisingly effective dramatic heft, hand to hand combat, a dynamite fuelled avalanche and the film even somehow finds time to throw in some social commentary on veterans with PTSD, the opioid crisis and stolen native land. It’s a LOT, but it somehow kind of works in a big jumble of plot, action and incident that while definitely too cluttered, could never be accused of not being anything but 100% ambitious from stem to stern.

-Nate Hill

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