Ice Soldiers (2014) – Film Review
Director: Sturla Gunnarsson
Writer: Jonathan Tydor
Actors: Dominic Purcell, Adam Beach, Michael Ironside, Gabriel Hogan, Benz Antoine, Nicu Branzea
Runtime: 95 mins
Everyone likes a good action film, and Ice Soldiers, the latest effort from Beowulf & Grendel director Sturla Gunnarsson, attempts to make its way into the foray of an already saturated market. Ice Soldiers follows Dr. Malraux (Dominic Purcell), a scientist who searches and discovers the frozen bodies of three genetically modified Russian soldiers buried in the Canadian North. However, when the bodies thaw, he realises the deadly threat that has been unleashed on western civilization, and must stop them at all costs.
From the initial introduction to the film via the trailer, stills, and such, one immediately becomes curious to see what this film is all about. Sadly, the film has a number of flaws, including a major one. Sturla Gunnarsson is a director who has dabbled in all aspects of directing. From hit documentaries such as Air India 182 (2008) to episodes of shows such as Motive and Rookie Blue, his creative resume is pretty impressive. The direction of Ice Soldiers is simple, capturing moments of suspense, shock, and violence the way every action film should. Each character is given a good amount of lens time for us to at least recognize who they are. However, there are moments in the film where things get a bit choppy; everything from inadequate editing to fake-looking scenes. Most do not affect the experience one has watching the film, but a few happen at key moments, and that does become irritating.
The cast was chosen, more than likely, for their personal traits. Dominic Purcell is a brilliant, rather macho scientist, and his dialogue matches that expected of a highly educated academic. In fact, there are moments when he looks exactly like Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa. Weird, but true. Michael Ironside, best known for his Splinter Cell voice work, brings his deep, commander like voice to match his character’s military traits. Unfortunately, as great as it is to see the adequate lens time given to each character, there is not much in the sense of character development. One minute they are there, and the next minute they are dead. Some scenes feel almost incomplete as the characters carry on dialogue. Adam Beach’s character is a refreshing addition to the story, as his character is given a little room to develop. Apart from that, the characters are simply there because they need to be.
The issues with directing and character development are not necessarily self-contained. The major flaw the film has is its storyline. As much as one wants to look away from this mistake, there is no denying that the screenplay feels obvious and uninteresting. Events progress in a manner that are expected, future events can be guessed without even thinking twice, and one knows what is going to happen at the end. In fact, certain “secrets” are so obvious that one may feel the film doesn’t even try to make them think. A film, no matter how powerful the cast or direction, is pretty much just a basketful of images if there is no solid story to create the necessary base. It’s not all bad, but unfortunately, there is more bad than good.
Ice Soldiers is an interesting addition to the action film genre. The film consists of a good cast and has the potential to become something great. However, the lack of a good story, especially from an engagement point of view, creates no foundation for the film on which characters can be developed, direction given some value, and the overall experience be magnified. It’s a shame that this film could have been taken to new heights if extra effort had been awarded to the development of the screenplay.