Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #332
Number of Views: One
Release Date: April 27, 2007
Country of Origin: United States/United Kingdom
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Gregory Jacobs
Producers: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
Screenplay: Joe Gangemi, Steven A. Katz
Special Effects: Dan Rebert
Visual Effects: Jon Cowley, Chris Holmes, Thomas J. Smith
Cinematography: Dan Laustsen
Score: Clint Mansell
Editing: Lee Percy
Studios: Blueprint Pictures, Section Eight Productions
Distributors: TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Releasing
Stars: Emily Blunt, Ashton Holmes, Martin Donovan, Ned Bellamy, Ian A. Wallace, Donny James Lucas, Chelan Simmons, Darren Moore, Linden Banks, Caz Odin Darko, Heath Horejda, Ian Thompson
Suggested Audio Candy:
Clint Mansell Wind Chill
My first experience of English rose Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow/Looper) wasn’t The Devil Wears Prada like most but instead a charming indie feature by Pawel Pawlikowski named My Summer of Love. I remember two things about that movie; first was Blunt’s perfectly formed chest pips and the other was her thoughtful portrayal of her character Tamsin, sparking wondrously off her equally auspicious co-star. It was merely a matter of time before Emily blossomed and she has now forced herself into Hollywood’s A-list, with relative ease, I might add. In amongst the big-budget sci-fi extravaganzas and playing Meryl Streep’s human pack-horse, she found time to appear in this little-known and slight supernatural chiller from Gregory Jacobs whose previous effort Criminal made its own vague splash on the independent circuit in 2004. I’m pleased as punch that she did.
Wind Chill is a modest movie with modest goals. It takes the age-old deserted highway road formula and puts its own unique spin on things. Like Adam Green’s well-received Frozen, weather conditions way beyond harsh pose an underlying threat although frostbitten fingers and toes turn out to be the last of our two protagonists’ concerns as something far more selective than Mother nature also pinpoints our weary travel pals. It is never considered necessary for the audience to learn the identities of our stranded pair so they are known simply as Girl and Guy. Ashton Holmes (A History of Violence, The Divide) is our alpha in question and offers his services as driver for her long haul home for the holidays.
After taking the dreaded scenic detour against the girl’s behest they find themselves paddling down the proverbial shit creek as a mysterious oncoming vehicle runs them off the road and leaves them marooned in sub-zero conditions. What is more distressing is that they don’t appear to be alone. Numerous drifters do exactly that; ghosting past their out-of-commission wheels and generally upsetting the equilibrium. Then there’s the state trooper whose sporadic appearance generally spells doom and gloom for the unlikely companions. Yet, as much as the metaphysical theme is prevalent throughout, it is the turns of the two leads and their undeniable chemistry that acts as bonding agent.
Both Blunt and Holmes excel throughout and what starts out as a reluctant pairing begins to transform into something touching and real. While girl begins prudent, prissy, and cagey; she softens as their plight worsens, regardless of the fact that guy clearly had ulterior motives in asking her along for their road trip. I knew as much as she rested her perfectly pedicured toes on his dashboard early on; his bunching corduroys gave him away. A character that could have ended up your quintessential date-rapist ends up an awkward but likeable foil to girl’s occasional hissy fits and Keeper found himself buying into their gently unfurling affections. Indeed, without them, Wind Chill would have struggled to leave a single discernible lasting vapor cloud.
Blunt’s character, in particular, undergoes the most compelling redemption as her tantrums give way to great resourcefulness and determination, as well as commitment towards a cause she spent the entire first act bemoaning. This, my friends, is why she has been fast-tracked to fame; not because of right time, right place but more from hard graft, perseverance, and by throwing herself into every role she tackles. You want to see things turn out for the best but the constant chill in the air suggests otherwise. Nevertheless, she proves her plucky resolve and never drops her pretty little head, despite regular setbacks and any disheartening recurrences.
Martin Donovan (Insomnia, The Haunting in Connecticut) is appropriately menacing as the overhanging highway patrolman who seems instrumental to the fateful paradox they find themselves within. However, a little too much exposition and a few too many inconclusive flashbacks end up as a distraction and upset the film’s natural ebb and flow to some extent. As the icy chill grips tight during the closing act, Jacobs finally reveals his hand and it’s no better or worse than countless other powder puff pay-offs but regardless of the somewhat underwhelming denouement, the emotional connection between our girl and guy sends a faint shiver to the heart, something as welcome as it is unprecedented.
A rational and resourceful treatment by screenwriting team Joe Gangemi and Steven A. Katz combined with mature performances from both Blunt and Holmes, along with suitably crisp and frosty cinematography by Dan Laustsen, elevate this above the droves of spooky wannabees. Wind Chill is not John Carpenter, there is no sub-text here, purely an old-fashioned ghost story with a big heart and icy fingertips. I find it ironic that the most poignant factor is the film’s unanticipated warmth but it halts Jacob’s wintry tale from ultimately leaving its audience cold.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Dread Factor: 3/5
For the Dread-Heads: Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence makes for an intriguing paradox but Wind Chill never really makes the most of its portentous premise. Despite this, there are chills, aside from the sub-zero temperatures. Just not quite as biting as I’d hoped. Imagine The Sure Thing spliced with an episode of Outer Limits and you’ll be in the right glacier.
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