The Ice Runner Cometh
jammer | Laramie, Wyoming United States | 02/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Caught red-handed in a US dollars for Russian arms transaction in 1990-ish Moscow, said arms to be funneled to Afghan rebels, the CIA betrays their fluent-Russian-speaking agent (Jeffrey West, as portrayed by Edward Albert) to avoid an embarrassing international scandal. Put on a prison train and headed for a remote Siberian gulag, a fiery train accident allows West to switch numbered clothing with that of a lesser prisoner who's corpse is later incinerated in the resulting fire, along with pertinent on-board documents. As Ivan Popovski, West is processed into a low security "honor" prison camp situated in a small Russian village surrounded by hundreds of miles of arctic wilderness. The prisoners, isolated and with escape all but impossible, must put in hard days' labor, but have decent clothing, living accommodations, and perks like games, tobacco, alcohol, days off, and village facilities for trading (perhaps with roving bands of gypsies) or to get drunk in; with a spectacular Russian Orthodox cathedral looming over everything.In a series of incidents with the potential of betraying his true identity to the ever-watchful, paranoid, and Stalinist-indoctrinated camp commander (the sinister and dangerous Kolya, portrayed by Eugene Lazarev), West considers how he might escape through the arctic wasteland, and makes preparations to that end.This production was filmed entirely in Moscow and Siberia by the independent American studio Gold Leaf International, Ltd. (Barry Samson's first feature film), apparently the first such American post-glasnost film, with an authentic Russian-speaking cast. Filming was interrupted by the Gorbachev coup attempt and the Soviet Union's crumbling. The American cast and crew members had to be evacuated at one point, returning ten days later for script adjustments to reflect the new political realities and completion of filming. Producer Sneller risked staying behind to guard the sets from destruction, knowing that production might never otherwise be resumed. There is thus an authenticity totally beyond the ken of run-of-the-mill Hollywood productions. While the first-rate cinematography of the snow and ice-bound Russian village, the surrounding snowscape, and the local wildlife (some encountered serendipitously during filming) is spectacular, the focus is not so much on the scenery, and certainly not on any film wizardry pyrotechnics, but rather on the characters' personalities and dilemmas. In this, both the direction and acting are first-rate.Edward Albert (the then forty-something son of Eddie Albert and Margo) gives a stunningly low-key and very moving performance; and coupled with his being comparatively unknown for such a potentially major work, the result is something far beyond the intrigue of false identity and escape, becoming instead an intensely authentic and personal drama. Image is to be profusely thanked for providing this greatly under-appreciated and under-publicized film. Were that they had re-mastered the visuals. But that cost might have entirely precluded making this relatively unknown film available. While the visuals are far more than adequate for enjoying this film, purists will notice some of the usual symptoms. But there really is no choice between having this great film as presented; and having re-mastering costs precluding it altogether! A film buff's dream would be a fully re-mastered version, with at least an hour-long making-of documentary. Criterion, are you listening?"
Ice Runner: "The Cold, Hard Facts" and "Golden-Eye Candy"
jabberwacky | california, USA | 06/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You've seen _Shawshank Redemption_. You've seen _Papillon_. Maybe you've even seen _Captives_. What if you could find all the wrongful-imprisonment...road-to-freedom-ness of these great movies in something refreshingly different, something to equal the thrills of _Mission Impossible_ and the romance of _Scarlet Letter_? _Ice Runner_ offers all such pleasures. More like watching a well-cast British piece than viewing the oft-predictablility of so many big-run films, you'll find yourself swept away by the Siberian-earthiness and mesmerizing depth of these characters. You'll find the pace and composition of _Ice Runner_ to be enjoyably different, yet never inferior. But more likely than not, you'll find yourself on the edge of your seat; it's a masterfully suspenseful "what's-next" with original and unexpected love scenes that you (and your Saturday night date) will not soon forget."
Ice Runner review
jammer | 05/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just found this gem of a movie recently, having never heard of it. I like action adventures set in the frozen north. This movie has something for everybody - action, romance and an experience of the pristine Siberian land. I was amazed to see that the entire movie was shot on location in Moscow and Siberia - truly an accomplishment all in itself. This is so unusual. At the beggining, there is a chase scene in Moscow square and in the famous subways with all the chandeliers haning from the ceiling. I have seen Siberiade and this movie is visually stunning likewise. I am fascinated by the landscapes - they are hauntingly beautiful. This was a very tender love story too, very multilayered and honest."