The Ice Road Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

At the Katka diamond mine in northern Canada, site manager René Lampard (Holt McCallany) discovers that the mine’s methane sensors have been switched off for some reason. Literally a few minutes later, the miners stumble upon a “methane pocket”: gas fills the mine, one of the workers, escaping, accidentally hits an iron pipe with a pick, a spark jumps and the methane explodes, causing the death of eight people and immuring twenty-six people in the mine. In order to save them, it is necessary to deliver a wellhead module to the mine as soon as possible – a 6-meter 25-ton installation, with which you can quickly break through the rubble.

The problem is not only that the nearest wellhead modules are 23 hours away from a tractor trailer capable of transporting such a plant, but also that the only road to the mine passes through the ice of a frozen lake, and it is April in the yard: the ice begins to melt and The authorities have closed the road. It will not be difficult to open the road, because the authorities up to the minister have joined in solving the problem, but it is not clear which of the drivers will want to take the risk, because the matter is deadly: a car with such a load can fall through the ice at any moment.

Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne), the owner of the Trappers transport company, volunteered first: he is familiar with the families of many miners and this is a personal matter for him. But for reliability, it was decided to send three trailers with three identical installations in order to reduce the risks: at least one truck, let it get there. Therefore, we need two more drivers and at least one mechanic for all three cars.

The second driver was Tantu (Amber Midthunder), an indigenous girl whose brother Cody (Martin Sensmeyer) is one of the twenty-six miners. Well, in the third car will go two brothers from North Dakota – Mike (Liam Neeson) and Gertie (Marcus Thomas). Mike has a great driving experience and Gertie is an excellent mechanic, but he received a shell shock in Iraq and suffers from aphasia – a partial loss of speech. The brothers really need money for a down payment for their own trailer, and the insurance company is ready to pay 50 thousand dollars to each participant in the operation.

They are also accompanied by an observer from the international insurance group “Katka” – a certain Tom Vernet (Benjamin Walker): he protects the investments of insurers and must ensure that everything goes according to plan during the trip.


Action thriller filmed in the old style: in fact, director Jonathan Hensley did not hide the fact that when creating the picture he was inspired by the Franco-Italian film of 1952 “Wage for Fear”, in which four drivers stuck without money in a tiny town somewhere in Latin America, undertook a suicide mission: for $2,000, deliver two truckloads of nitroglycerin to oil wells located 300 miles from the city.

Interestingly, when shooting at the very minimum, special effects were used here: 98% of the pictures were shot live – with trucks driving on the ice of a frozen lake at a temperature of minus 20 Celsius. For filming certain scenes, the bodies of Kenworth tractor trailers participating in the picture, in full coloring and with a completely preserved interior, were installed on Ford F-550 pickup trucks, thus obtaining a kind of hybrid. Stunt drivers sat in the cab of the pickup truck, while actors sat in the cab of the trailer. At the same time, a real landscape floated outside the windows. And there was no chroma key and no combined filming, as the director himself said.

The script was written by Jonathan Hensley himself – in fact, he is much better known as a screenwriter: he wrote scripts for as many as eighteen films, including Armageddon, The Punisher, Die Hard 3: Retribution, Jumanji and others.

It is clear that it is purely a scenario with the very fact of a deadly trip of trucks with multi-ton installations on ice, where the speed must be kept very clearly, because if you drive very slowly, then there is a risk of falling through the ice, and if you drive too fast, you can cause a “longitudinal wave”, after which – also immediately under the ice, especially you won’t clear up.

Because the truck can first – break down and, at most, the second – fall through the ice. Both of these things happen in the first half hour of the 108-minute film, so Jonathan Hensley had to wrap up a complex and at the same time rather ridiculous intrigue with who, how, why and why put the participants in the rescue operation in the literal sense of the word spokes in wheels. So the drivers had to fight not only with the elements, but also with some scoundrels, whose motivation was spelled out, frankly, rather casually, so that they were more scoundrels, as if simply out of principle, but with all the foolishness.

Also, for the development of the plot, scenes with miners locked underground were introduced, among which, of course, there were bad guys and good guys. The bad guys wanted all the bad things for the sake of all the bad things, and the good guys wanted all the good things for the sake of all the good things. And these action scenes, although diversified, were, frankly, not very exciting.

But with the trucks, everything looked very dynamic and really exciting, although, of course, the audience was a little sausage from the fact that the main characters were constantly in wait for a variety of dangers and at times it seemed that they couldn’t get out of this, however, since they were in the ranks the driver was the indestructible Mike, who, firstly, was not used to retreating, and secondly, he had to take care of his unfortunate brother, we understood that in the end everything would be fine and that one of them would definitely get there on time, so that the miners will be rescued (and what, generally speaking, were you waiting for?), and the scoundrels will be kicked in their scoundrel soup.

Combat pensioner Liam Neeson looks very good here. Moreover, in this film, he is not a reinforced concrete indestructible hero, but simply, although somewhat quick-tempered, but a hard worker, a hard worker, touchingly caring for his brother, and there this concern was shown without excessive sweetness: Mike is periodically pissed off by his brother, and he starts yelling at him.

It was nice to see Laurence Fishburne in the role of the responsible head of the transport office, it’s only a pity that the role he got was not too long. But he played his scenes very well.

I really liked Marcus Thomas, who played Mike Gerty’s brother, who received a concussion in Iraq and is now experiencing all sorts of problems. The role is touching, well played, but without excessive squeezing of tears. There was something natural about this Gertie, and it turned out well.

Amber Midthunder in the role of Indian Tantu – in general, I liked it, but at the same time – nothing so special, the role is rather auxiliary against the background of Neeson’s character.

Well, Holt McCallany, as always, played his role very worthily – the head of the site, locked underground, forced to rake up the confrontation between some miners and others.

The main thing that I liked most about this film is that old-school and naturalistic shooting style. The ballet of multi-ton tractors sliding on the ice of a frozen huge lake (it stretches for almost 500 kilometers) is a truly mesmerizing sight. And there will be not only ballet on ice, there will be a lot of things for trucks to overcome.

So, in spite of the obvious script glitches and the obvious implausibility of some scenes, I liked the picture and I watched it with pleasure. Plus, I also note a good soundtrack by the composer Max Aruj – he really suited the picture.

Interestingly, on IMDB the rating of the film is absolutely, as they say, “below the plinth” – only 5.6. But on “IMDB” – a completely different matter, there the rating is high – 6.9. I wonder why it happened? Are the Americans offended that Liam Neeson’s character didn’t kill a couple of dozen Albanians in the film?

Ice Drive / The Ice Road review

Director: Jonathan Hensley Cast: Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne, Benjamin Walker, Amber Midthunder, Marcus Thomas, Holt McCallany, Martin Sensmeier, Matt McCoy, Matt Salinger, Chad Bruce

Action thriller, USA, 2021, 108 min.

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