August 24, 2020 Centigrade (Movie Review)
Ah, Norway. Home of gorgeously pristine fjords, exquisite views of the Aurora Borealis, and a breathtaking place to freeze to death. Inspired by real events, Centigrade presents a frozen fight for survival that arrives to select theaters as well as On Demand on Friday, August 28, 2020, thanks to IFC Midnight.
American novelist Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez: Tusk 2014, The Fugitive series) is on a small book tour of Norway when she and her husband, Matt (Vincent Piazza: Boardwalk Empire series, Jersey Boys 2014), pull off the highway during an ice storm to rest for the night. Big mistake! They awaken to find their SUV turned into a gigantic snowball and they are trapped inside its core. With only twelve days of food rations and two bottles of water available, the couple are forced to make the ultimate decision: should they stay inside and pray for a search party or should they attempt to dig their way out and face the elements? The tension is thick as they attempt to weigh their options and, oh yeah, Naomi is pregnant.
A Survival Thriller that pits a married couple against the frigid landscape of Norway, Centigrade marks the feature-length directorial debut of Brendan Walsh (Nurse Jackie series, Royal Pains series), who co-wrote the screenplay with Daley Nixon (Stationary short 2016). An interesting twist on the ‘one room’ film, this tale takes place (almost) entirely inside of the couple’s rented SUV—and they are definitely not getting their deposit back.
At 89 minutes, Centigrade is a succinct tale that never overstays its welcome. In fact, one could easily say that this is the wintery cousin to Outback, which Lionsgate released in June. There, a couple end up lost and wandering the Australian bush as they dehydrate and fend off venomous critters. In this incarnation of Man vs. Mother Nature, our twosome are trapped with the unknown raging all around them. If they manage to dig their way out of their shelter, what will they find? Certainly not poisonous reptiles, but the arctic temperatures are enough to do plenty of their own damage.
Of course, there are also secrets wafting to the surface inside the chilly rental, and Naomi and Matt’s relationship brings plenty of its own drama: they barely seem to like one another at times, and each is keeping important information from the other. She is a bit of a klutz, a butterfingers who seems to manhandle their meager supplies, and he is quick to anger and often becomes argumentative. It’s not exactly an ideal romance but, for this, the pair are real, everyday characters who present no phenomenal skills or exemplary leadership; neither is hero material but both will find their own form of redemption.
Portraying these flawed individuals, Rodriguez and Piazza feel authentic. In fact, they spar like lovers, fueling the tension that keeps the plot moving despite the fact that they are physically cornered. Considering that they are the only two in the cast, the actors do a phenomenal job of playing off one another, building organically into the silly arguments that couples often have, but ultimately expressing their love for one another. There are times where Rodriguez’s Naomi is immature and a bit whiny, and there are certainly times where Piazza’s Matt seems harsh, borderline abusive, and uncaring. But each actor’s character achieves their own redemption in the choices that they choose to make as they attempt to survive their ordeal.
While the story that Rodriguez and Piazza are delivering isn’t anything groundbreaking, it’s also fairly solid; as it’s kind of hard to pick apart anything that is supposedly based on actual events. And while Seamus Tierney’s (Sarah Silverman: A Speck of Dust TV documentary 2017, You series) cinematography throughout the film is good, it’s fairly obvious that the actual vehicle that Rodriguez and Piazza are inside is not in Europe. In fact, if you’re here simply to see the striking natural scenery of Norway, this is not going to be the film for you. There is an allure to the shots of the snow-covered, rugged terrain, sure, but there is very little that is distinctly Norwegian. Which is neither a positive or a negative aspect of the film itself, but merely something worth noting.
With all of this said, Centigrade is a solid entry into the survival subgenre of Thrillers that has plenty of drama. The idea of man taking on the elements without ever actually setting foot outside a vehicle is not a common approach to the topic, and for that Centigrade has some intrigue to offer fans. Considering that the film has a cast of two individuals who are stuffed inside a metal box, Centigrade has enough to offer to keep viewers engaged for its runtime. A cautionary tale, this is one movie-going experience that will make you think twice before pulling off the road in an ice storm. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Centigrade 3 of 5 stars.