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Sundance Review: On the Ice Tails Off

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  • Rob Schmidt
    http://www.film.com/features/story/sundance-review-ice-tails-off/43905732 Sundance Review: On the Ice Tails Off A decent premise, but not enough solid acting.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 28, 2011
      http://www.film.com/features/story/sundance-review-ice-tails-off/43905732

      Sundance Review: On the Ice Tails Off

      A decent premise, but not enough solid acting.

      Aaron Peck, Jan 23, 2011

      "There's promise here ..."

      It's hard to grade a movie like On the Ice. It's a worthy effort from first-time feature film director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, but
      the very raw acting talent can't help but pull it down a peg or two.

      On the Ice is set in Alaska during the time of year when the sun doesn't set. The kids of a remote village are a close-knit group.
      They have been raised in the ancient traditions of their parents, but have also been heavily influenced by hip-hop, and alcohol.
      Without much else to do in the frozen tundra, alcohol seems to run rampant through the adults and teenagers alike.

      Qalli and Aivaaq are best friends. Qalli is the most promising kid in the village. Everyone is expecting him to go to college and
      make something of himself. Not many kids leave to pursue higher education here, so the town is counting on him. Aivaaq is the
      trouble maker. He's dragging Qalli down with him. His antics become increasingly bizarre and risky, from fighting with friends to
      smoking crack.

      Qallie and Aivaaq are planning a seal hunting trip with their friend James. Aivaaq and James end up leaving early. When Qallie
      finally finds them punches are already flying. In a rage James grabs a shovel and slams it into Aivaaq. To protect his best friend
      Qallie grabs a knife and, after tackling James, Qallie ends up accidentally stabbing and killing him. Instead of going back and
      telling the truth, Qallie and Aivaaq decide to cover it up. They push James through the ice tied to his snowmobile and run back to
      tell the town that James fell through the ice by mistake.

      It's a fine setup. There's promise here. The movie shines when Qallie quietly deals with his emotional grief and shame for what he's
      done. When the movie switches to the more intensely dramatic scenes that call for these new actors to emote, then it starts to lose
      its audience. It's difficult to come out and say that the acting in On the Ice was bad, because it really wasn't. These are just raw
      actors trying to hone their skills, and that's commendable, though it's somewhat distracting as far as the movie goes.

      On the Ice touches on an emotional level during its first half up until the murder happens. After that it turns into a pseudo-murder
      mystery, which has Qallie's dad trying to figure out what really happened. There are times where we wonder, "How did he really know
      to do that or look there?" I imagine it all boils down to fatherly wisdom, or perhaps the story just needs to move forward. Sadly,
      the story becomes extremely predictable, and the young actors here just can't pull off the dramatic material. It's a shame, because
      On the Ice had a lot of promise.

      Grade: C
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