Liam Neeson’s The Ice Road finds its inspiration from two classic pictures in 1953’s The Wages of Fear and 1977’s Sorcerer. The plots are similar by placing truck drivers in dangerous situations with nearly impossible odds to succeed. In Wages and its remake, it regarded the transportation of finnicky nitroglycerin over rough terrain. Though explosives are involved here, Road mostly pertains to what lies beneath. This is where ears of fans for the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers may perk up.
A mining disaster in Manitoba traps 26 workers. The only way in reaching the remote locale to rescue them is hauling hefty rigs over the frozen tundra. Signing up for the job is Neeson’s toothpick chomping Mike McCann and brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an ex-Vet suffering from PTSD and aphasia, a condition which limits his ability to communicate. Others along for the ride due to their particular sets of skills are Laurence Fishburne as a seasoned driver and Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a rebel with a cause whose brother is among those closed in and about to run out of oxygen. There’s also Tom (Benjamin Walker), a company man supposedly there to assess insurance risk.
The Ice Road volleys back and forth between the motorists on their slick mission, the captive workers making life or death decisions as their breathing slows, and the corporate overlords more concerned with not ruining their profits. Neeson has, of course, made his own profitable second career with these mostly generic action thrillers. With Jonathan Hensleigh (writer of Die Hard with a Vengeance and Armageddon) behind the directorial wheel, we have another middling entry for the Taken lead.
As the credits rolled, it struck me how little real action or visual thrills there are here. Some of this could be budget related. When the ground cracks and mayhem occurs, we never see below the surface and that might have been cool (pun intended). Neeson doesn’t sleepwalk through the role nor does Midthunder. As for brother Gurty, he does have a pet mouse that comes in handy at one point. Ultimately this tale of ice and anonymous ski goggled henchmen is primarily stuck in mediocrity.
** (out of four)