The Frozen Ground seems to think that it is operating in the same league as Zodiac, the outstanding David Fincher film from 2007. Would that it were. As with that film, The Frozen Ground is based on a real life serial killer dating back to the 1970s, though this one was successfully identified and captured. Here, Nicholas Cage plays Jack Halcombe, an Alaska State Trooper who becomes obsessed with arresting Robert Hansen (John Cusack, successfully playing against type) for the kidnap, rape and murder of several young women. Hansen’s M.O. was to kidnap the women, assault them, and then fly them to the wilderness where he could release them and hunt them down. He only became known when one of his victims managed to escape his clutches on the runway and run to safety, but even then he wasn’t arrested. He provided an alibi which wasn’t properly investigated and his victim, Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens), was deemed unreliable.
The film opens with Paulson’s interview with the police directly after her escape, and for starters this seems like a strange choice. To me it seems the most powerful scene in this whole piece would be the one where Paulson escapes Hansen’s clutches. It would be a scene of high drama (for those unfamiliar with the story), of high risk, and a scene which gives the central female character a position of strength, of accomplishment. Instead, Paulson becomes a pawn, someone to be rescued by the men of the story rather than allowed to have control of her own destiny.
But while this is a problem, it is also fairly typical of standard Hollywood fare. The role of the woman is to be a catalyst, something that stirs the men into action, something to be protected, cherished, lusted after. And I use the word ‘something’ there purposefully as women are so often treated as objects fulfilling the role of Hitchcock’s macguffin – the excuse for the action. They are rarely allowed to be someONE.
So, acknowledging that the movie fails to live in the rarefied ground of Zodiac, how does it compare to other more standard Hollywood products? Well, it’s… fine. I suppose. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it (although, technically, I did), I wouldn’t watch it again, but it’s not wholly awful. Nic Cage is neither at his crazy best but neither is he at his mopey worst, John Cusack is sufficiently creepy, it’s reasonably well shot, but there is nothing about the film to lift it above the standard of mediocre.
Film length: 1hr 45 mins – Feels like: 1hr 55 mins