Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 5.7/10
Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 6/10
THE FROZEN GROUND (2013) - Scott Walker
Robert Christian Hansen is a serial killer who, between 1971 and 1983, raped and assaulted over thirty Alaskan women, and is responsible for the murder of at least another seventeen. Convicted in '83, he is currently serving 461 years in Spring Creek Correctional Center. Out of the seventeen he murdered, only eleven of the victims' bodies were ever recovered.
The Frozen Ground begins with the escape of Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), the only survivor of Hansen's rampage. The film then goes on to tell the true story of Sergeant Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage), who goes on a personal manhunt and successfully brings the serial killer Hansen (John Cusack) to justice.
Yes, the film sounds unbelievably cliche, for it consists of every single CSI episode you have probably seen. In the end, we know that the killer will get caught, and the first half will always emphasize on how horrifying his acts are. If there is one negative adjective to describe this, it would be "predictable." Then again, as long as the film remains faithful to its own substance, then we can and should be forgiving. Fortunately, The Frozen Ground takes its subject very seriously.
In terms of directing and camerawork, the film was good enough, not award-winning but not illogical or poorly done. The main component that sells its premise and plot is the use of location. Similar to The Grey and other Swedish films that take place in the winter, the film manages to get us to feel the cold, and it settles really well for a tense and dread-building atmosphere. In a way, the snowy state of Alaska is a character on its own.
For your greatest surprise, Nicolas Cage is fabulous here, playing a consistent, determined, and knowledgeable man who knows exactly what he is doing and how to achieve his goal. Yes, it is a tone down from his best works, but it is proof that he is getting back on the right track again. If he succeeds in another satisfying movie, he can most definitely attempt a turn around. He holds an interesting and suspenseful chemistry with Vanessa Hudgens on the screen, being the "caretaker" to the victim. As for his chemistry with Cusack, the air is thin, the music is quiet, and the stakes are tremendously high within the words they throw at each other.
Earlier in the year, Hudgens appeared in the explicit commentary-throwing Spring Breakers, in which she delivered quite a consistent performance. Though her character does not have much backstory nor substance, she portrayed a specific kind of archetype with great accuracy. Here, she does it again for a victim of rape and near-murder. Though I question her motivations of running away every single time, even during illogical moments, her character here is one who constantly lives in fear, hoping that the law can bring down the man who hunted her. She gives great pacing in line delivery and knows when it is best not to speak in a meaningful scene. In terms of her career, Hudgens seems to be on the right path, though it would be more eye-opening to see her do something less on the sexual side.
The main star in The Frozen Ground, however, is John Cusack, who plays the cold-blooded chameleon of a killer. He has a family, he works in a bakery, and he blends in. When he speaks, he speaks slowly and calmly, as if everything has already been planned out the way he wanted it. When he treats his victims, there is a sense of respect, but an evil respect where he "kindly" talks. To everyone else in the town, he is a respected citizen, which explains why nobody ever was suspicious of him in the first place. Cusack plays that quiet ghost perfectly, as he is slowly exposed to everyone by Cage, becoming the true psychotic man underneath. If there is one good reason to see the formulaic that is The Frozen Ground, it would be Cusack's performance.
In conclusion, though it offers nothing new to its genre, The Frozen Ground remains a serious, faithful, and intense piece of crime mystery cinema. Based on a horrifying true story, the film settles in a cold environment and takes off there with fine performances from all three leads. In its end credits, the film reveals that it is dedicated to all the victims, known and unknown. Honestly, though The Frozen Ground is not considerably a "great film," every victim would be thankful of this piece being made.