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The Frozen Ground - Review

The Frozen Ground

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

NICOLAS Cage delivers one of his best central performances in a long time in The Frozen Ground, a solid thriller based on a horrifying true story.

What’s more, he’s ably supported by former Con Air co-star John Cusack, who adds to the overall quality of the film with a chilling portrayal of a serial killer.

Written and directed by Scott Walker, The Frozen Ground picks up in Alaska, as a teenage prostitute, Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) escapes the clutches of a rapist and would-be killer, only to have her story largely ignored by the authorities until a dogged State Trooper, Jack Halcombe (Cage) picks up the case and links it to the activities of a possible serial killer of similarly aged girls, the remains of whom have been found in the wilderness.

The ensuing investigation points to local man Robert Hansen (Cusack) but with only circumstantial evidence to work with, Halcombe has his work cut out making a case stick before Hansen either strikes again or targets his only surviving witness.

Walker’s film is a labour of love that only becomes clear once the end credits begin to expose the full extent of what took place (when photographs of the victims fill the screens). Up until that point, though, it’s an utterly engrossing thriller that offers up a taut cat-and-mouse game and a telling character study.

The latter is particularly applicable to Paulson, the character played by Hudgens, and whose real-life experiences informed Walker’s screenplay (it was the first time she told her story). Hudgens, for her part, plays the role really well, displaying grit and vulnerability and moving still further away from her former Disney past. It’s an adult role that successfully taps into the downward spiral of an abused girl who turns to a life on the street as a means of escape.

Cage, too, shines as Halcombe, enjoying many of his best scenes with Hudgens, seizing the chance to display gripes sensitive side than we’ve seen in a long time. But he also gets a couple of trademark outbursts and, belatedly, enjoys a lively battle of wills with Cusack, whose own portrayal of Hansen is ice cold and sickeningly unmoved.

There’s strong support, too, from a good ensemble that includes Dean Norris, as Cage’s partner, Kevin Dunn as his boss, and Brad William Henke as an imposing heavy, although Radha Mitchell is under-used and under-developed as Cage’s wife.

Walker’s direction, meanwhile, succeeds in slowly piling on the tension while generating a palpable sense of Alaska’s seedier elements (without feeling exploitative), and also making good use of his imposing surrounding natural environment.

The overall result is a thriller that consistently engages by virtue of its focus on character and disturbing basis in reality.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 105mins
UK Release Date: July 19, 2013