Wednesday 15 January 2014

The Frozen Ground

Building up to the release of The Frozen Ground there was quite a bit of talk about it being the first time Nicolas Cage and John Cusack were on screen together since Con Air. For anyone looking at the poster and seeing these two names, they might have thought it was some kind of action film, as for the most part it's all Cage does lately. However, they would have been wrong. 

The Frozen Ground is a powerful and haunting depiction of the true story about serial killer Robert Hansen, a man who murdered at least 17 women, and assaulted and raped many more. It's a tough film to watch at times, and may not be something you'll watch time and time again, but is a respectful portrayal of the horror that haunted Alaska for over a decade.

The Frozen Ground focuses on the story of Cindy Paulsen (Vanessa Hudgens), the only survivor of Robert Hansen's (John Cusack) onslaught, but plays out mainly from the perspective of Detective Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage). After Cindy is assaulted and raped by Hansen, she escapes while he's loading his plane, which he planned to bring her in to a secluded location. However, the Alaskan police don't take her story seriously, due to the fact that she's a prostitute and Hansen is a seemingly respectable member of the community. She's essentially disregarded despite her awfully traumatic experience. However, Halcombe decides to look into her case, and unknowingly begins to unearth what is now considered one of the most infamous and disturbing series of serials killings in American history.

Making this film was always going to be tough, considering it deals with extremely disturbing recent history, and much of this would rest on the shoulder of the cast. There have been so many true crime films that have just fallen flat when it comes to the cast. Thankfully, The Frozen Ground isn't one of them. Everyone is top notch here, from Vanessa Hudgens as the victim no one believes, Nicolas Cage as the weary yet determined detective and, of course, John Cusack who plays the sadistic Robert Hansen. 

This role is worlds apart from what you've seen John Cusack in before, and his portrayal of Robert Hansen, both in his everyday life as a baker and during his disturbing assaults, is haunting, convincing and completely unsettling. Also, The Frozen Ground is one of those rare films that reminds us that Nicolas Cage can act. Granted the guy acts in plenty of shit films and tends to be the butt of many gags, but he's fantastic here. Everyone involved treats the subject matter with care, yet avoids trying to gloss over the true horror of what unfolded in Alaska in 1983. That said, The Frozen Ground isn't exactly violent when it comes to blood and guts, but rather in its brutal portrayal of true violence, both physically as well as mentally.

This could have been a train wreck of a film, a cheap cash-in to a traumatic experience that still exists in the minds of many, especially Cindy Paulsen. However, this is anything but that. The Frozen Ground is a grim and honest take on a piece of American history that is truly horrifying. This is mostly down to the all round fantastic performances by the main trio of actors here, but is also thanks to the direction director Scott Walker took the project in. It's disturbing, thrilling, intriguing and, well, saddening. When the credits roll and the real-life faces of the victims appear on screen one by one, it only hits home that The Frozen Ground was clearly made for them, and thankfully it was given the treatment it deserved.

The Frozen Ground treats its sensitive subject matter with respect and garners an 8/10.

Denis Murphy.

The Frozen Ground at CeX

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