‘The Frozen Ground’ could have easily gone the route of “just another serial killer movie” but thanks to some taut narration, good performances and breathtaking visuals it’s a cut above your average thriller.
Based on actual events, the story starts off in 1983, in the snow covered town of Anchorage, Alaska, where a young prostitute, Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens) is found handcuffed and badly injured, claiming to have been raped and nearly murdered by Robert Hansen (John Cusack). The detectives investigating the accusation find that Hansen despite a prior record of sexual assault has reformed himself and is an upstanding citizen with a wife and two kids. He also has an airtight alibi for the night Cindy claims she was assaulted. The cops even go to the extent of saying “how can a prostitute be raped?”, which leads to one of the junior officers to mail the case file to Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage). Jack who’s in the last two weeks of his job, has recently been assigned a case involving the body of another girl being found in the Alaskan wilderness, rotting and shot in the head along with a shell casing. Halcombe connects the dots and realises that Hansen might be the perpetrator of not just these crimes but connected to dozens of cases in which young women have gone missing over the past decade. He needs to find evidence that will nail Hansen but also needs the testimony of Cindy who’s struggling with not just her substance abuse habit but also the prospect of Hansen trying to kill her and wipe out the most crucial evidence against him.
The movie leaves no ambiguity as to Hansen’s character pretty early in the proceedings. He’s shown to be a predator, who behind a facade of domestic bliss and soft-spoken demeanour hides a vile streak of violence. The movie’s backbone is Jack’s efforts to convince his superiors that Hansen is guilty and gather the requisite evidence while keeping Cindy safe, even having to “babysit” at times.
Some of the scenes were particularly disturbing and heart wrenching, like Hansen’s torture and murder of one of his victims in his basement. The movie walks a tightrope between overt sentimentality and a more pragmatic approach to the characters right down to relatives of the victims who appear in a few scenes. The Alaskan vistas are a mesmerising sight to behold and complement the sombre tone of the movie perfectly. There is a scene in the movie when Cindy’s walking alone by herself at night during a snow storm and comes across a reindeer in the middle of the city. The two just stare at each other, both lost and you can’t help but fall in love with that one moment of solitude.
Nicolas Cage has not been this good in a long time and he invests his character with such sincerity and urgency that you actually feel invested in his efforts to nail Hansen’s crime. John Cusack on the other hand is cold as ice and seems almost benign until he commits acts of such malevolence that it makes your skin creep with repulsion. Hudgens on the other hand is the weak link. With a character containing so many shades, a better actress could have made all the difference, but she’s not bad, just ineffectual. Radha Mitchell and Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson have throwaway roles and barely get any screen time.
‘The Frozen Ground’ is a thriller that fleshes out its characters quite admirably, has some brilliant cinematography and good performances. It may not be as good as ‘Seven’ but it’s a damn good movie in its own right.view less