Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
It is just the line it needs to freeze you in your seat. Right from the beginning on screen is the phrase “Based on actual events”, which fades quietly to black.
‘The Frozen Ground’ indeed re-enacts the 1980s investigation and manhunt of Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen, who kidnapped, raped, and murdered at least 17 women. The victims were mostly in their late teens and early 20s, and their abductions took place just months from each other.
It is almost too frightening and heartless to be true, but this gut-wrenching sequence of events will make you stick to the plot. You will hate this criminal. You will want him to be caught. And unless you have a heart of ice, you will feel strongly for this film.
John Cusack's nice guy demeanour makes him a terrifying killer
As unfathomable as it may seem, the monster behind Hansen is played impeccably well by Hollywood nice guy John Cusack. And it is unexpected how he plays out this sinister role in such a manner that it makes you uncomfortable.
Cusack’s reputably nice demeanour suits the role nicely, blending into society amid the greetings and smiles of unwary townsfolk. Complete with stutters, fidgets, and a disturbing obsession with hanging animal busts on his wall, Cusack convincingly plays a character with a deep dark secret.
It is a secret that Jack Halcombe, a retiring police sergeant played by Nicolas Cage, tries to expose. Before you start cracking jokes about the recent career dip of Cage, it must be said that he puts up a solid and controlled performance that is also refreshing, given his notorious penchant for over-the-top acting.
No explosions or over-enthusiastic acting, Nicolas Cage puts on a simple yet credible performance
Audiences might be thrilled to see Cage and Cusack reunite since their blockbuster pairing in 1997’s ‘Con-Air’, but interaction between the two is kept to a sparse minimum here, which notably adds to the tension surrounding their cat-and-mouse circumstances.
The only link between the two is escaped victim Cindy Paulson, who is played by yet another Hollywood babyface Vanessa Hudgens, giving a thumbs-up execution of a character damaged by sex and drugs.
Vanessa Hudgens plays tormented real-life victim Cindy Paulson
On the other hand, rapper 50 Cent, who plays a real-life pimp, is perhaps the weakest link in the film’s cast, giving a mediocre performance.
But the most important character which fully fleshes out the whole mood of the film is the Alaskan setting itself. Frozen lakes with cracked brittle surfaces, labyrinths of dead trees, and all that ominous and unforgiving snowfall, the harsh atmosphere plays a big part in keeping the viewers gripping to this oppresive story until the very last minute.