In The Ice Road, an explosion at a mine necessitates a five man band of Ice Road Truckers to drive across Canada in late spring to deliver the very heavy equipment needed to dig the miners out before they run out of oxygen. The crew of brave drivers include seasoned trucker, Mike (Liam Neeson) and his brother, Gurty (Marcus Thomas), a disabled veteran; Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), a First Nations woman whose brother is in the mine; Varnay (Benjamin Walker), an actuary for the mining company; and Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne), the owner of the trucks.
There are so many plot twists and setbacks for the truckers that I found myself checking my watch, asking, “How are we only a half hour in?” While the plot is not exactly predictable, it is so full that it seems like the writer flew by the seat of his pants, throwing in every idea he had. Once I got past the absurdity of the writing, The Ice Road was a fun watch.
Although I question the wisdom of its midsummer release, The Ice Road uses the atmosphere of the frozen landscape to create both beauty and suspense. I honestly do not know why this movie required so many bad guys when the truckers are already up against a road made of thinning ice. Every time the movie showed tires turning over the ice, I held my breath. The ice does much better acting as the antagonist than the humans do.
Really, you know what you are after if you turn on a Liam Neeson movie. The Ice Road delivers on those expectations despite lackluster acting and an excessive plot.
The Ice Road was written and directed by Jonathan Hensleigh. It runs 1 hour 49 minutes and is rated PG-13 for language and violence. It is streaming on Netflix.
A crime drama set in 1954 Detroit, No Sudden Move focuses on a crew of criminals who hold a family hostage in order to get ahold of a document secured in the husband’s boss’s safe. When the document is not there, however, things spiral out of control, uncovering a conspiracy that is somehow connected to organized crime and pollution.
This movie started out so well. When Curt (Don Cheadle), Ronald (Benicio Del Torro), and Charley (Kieran Culkin) burst into the Wertz family home over breakfast, the suspense builds quickly as the family, Mary (Amy Seimetz), Matt (David Harbour), Matthew Jr. (Noah Jupe), and Peggy (Lucy Holt) are unsure why they are targeted. Amy Seimetz and Noah Jupe deliver excellent performances as the family tries to stay alive. A particularly striking scene happens when a family friend arrives to pick up Peggy for carpool. Answering the door at gunpoint, Amy Seimetz does an outstanding job acting as Mary acting like everything is fine.
As the plot gets more complicated, however, it gets harder and harder to follow and the stakes start to thin out. By the halfway point, I felt disinvested from the characters and the conspiracy. Even Matt Damon popping up in the third act did not grab my interest much. Although Don Cheadle’s performance is compelling and the stakes for his character are kept high throughout, the plot of the movie is too bloated to sustain the tension a crime drama really needs.
In addition to the great acting, however, the direction by Steven Soderbergh features an array of interesting camera angles and beautiful period sets. His use of fisheye lenses was particularly striking and disorienting. There is a lot in this movie to keep an audience interested if they are willing to forego the suspense they might expect from this genre of story.
No Sudden Move was written by Ed Solomon and directed by Steven Soderbergh. It runs 1 hour 55 minutes and is rated R for language, violence, and sexual references. It is streaming on HBO Max.
If you’re looking for something much lighter, I suggest Netflix’s This Is Pop, particularly the episode about how much of our pop music actually comes from Sweden. The series takes up a variety of topics about popular music, from the use of autotune to country music crossovers with a witty tone and expert commentary that makes it a fun, quick dose of trivia and behind the scenes stories.