The front cover boldly proclaims a review line, that links Scott Walker’s new film to David Fincher’s Se7en. That is a bit of stretch but that in no way is to diminish what an unsuspectingly effective thriller this is. From the very start The Frozen Ground carries an illusive and menacing vibe with it and, while altering aspects of its true story, the fundamental evil remains seethingly well represented. The Frozen Ground, much like Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia and Dennis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, stars major talent but in no way glosses what is a cold and calculating tale of murder.
True, the story is scattered with a few clichés (the last days on the job lead, the victim finding her strength, etc.), yet it feels rather chilling and undeniably effective. The Frozen Ground does occasionally veer off (Curtis Jackson’s pimp character especially feels a bit much) but Walker’s keen eye for engrossing you in the harsh climate and harsher human cruelty defines the story, keeping you engaged. Patrick Murguia’s cinematography grounds the story in the vastness and harshness of the Alaskan setting and Walker allows this story to play out atop it. However one of the biggest factors that contribute to engraining this thriller in the memory, is the effectiveness of the cast’s performances.
Nicolas Cage may have a sullied reputation now more than ever, off the back of recent films like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Stolen and Trespass but this is Cage’s best performance since Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Cage brings a fire to Jack Halcombe and a determination that transcends any familiar backstories and makes him a thoroughly anchored moral point to the movie. John Cusack similarly is given room to flex in a creeping and methodically sinister part and as real life killer Robert Hansen; he brings a real threat to the film. Vanessa Hudgens is also impressive as central victim/survivor Cindy and is the central point for some of the film’s more nail-biting sequences. The film also offers terrific support from Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, Silent Hill’s Radha Mitchell and Transformers’ Kevin Dunn.
The Frozen Ground may not have the lasting imprint of the likes of Zodiac as far as true-life based serial killer thrillers are concerned but it is a suspenseful journey. A film that takes the audiences into the mind-set of a predatory killer and that effectively shows how the law can be a hindrance instead of a help. This film successfully warrants a viewing and stands as evidence that Nicolas Cage is a fine actor, wrongly labelled with the same wrongful stereotyping as Johnny Depp is nowadays. In short, give The Frozen Ground a chance, it is far thicker than you’d think (sticking with the ice metaphor).