THE LAST WINTER
Reviewed by: Ryan Doom
What's it about
In rural Alaska, a team prepares to re-tap an abandoned well, but the spirits buried below donít like that idea. Mother nature to the rescue to solve our oil needs.
Is it good movie?
Technically, all movies carry a message. Something as simple as love thy neighbor or that playing with fire really hurts. Times do exist, however, when the theme overtakes the film, dominating the plot and the action. In director/editor/writer Larry Fessendenís The Last Winter, the theme of global warming slaps the viewer across the face with a Honda Prius. If you donít catch the message that our dependence on oil is the death of us all, youíre not very smart. Sorry, but itís true. Itís so matter of fact that the characters donít even discuss it in hidden terms, having open debates about what itís doing to the earth. Any theme probably works best if itís slyly included, sowing the idea subliminally, not basically having the actors wear T-shirts for the cause.
Nevertheless, I still havenít answered the big question whether or not The Last Winter succeeds or fails. Even with the heavy-handed message, The Last Winter works. Itís tight and scary with interesting characters as a crew ventures to north-most part of Alaska to re-tap an abandoned oil well only to find the fossils donít agree with the decision. Whatever is buried in the permafrost isnít happy and turns the team into a raging bunch of psychos.
Ron Perlman leads the effective cast as Pollack, a gruff oilman who doesnít have time or patience for little interruptions like the environment. As if anyone whoís seen Hellboy doesnít know, Perlman possesses a great presence and dominates any scene. Heís great in the role and plays well off the quiet scientist/environmentalist Hoffman (James LeGros), whoíll remind a bit of Kurt Russell in The Thing though without the manliness or the big ass hat he wore. Theyíre exact opposites, both stubborn in their causes and unwilling to budge.
Speaking of which, the obvious comparison comes with John Carpenterís masterpiece The Thing with the subzero temps, stark white backdrop, the claustrophobic quarters, and the rough looking cast (meant as an authentic compliment). While the special effects donít hold a candle to The Thing, it did take a good cue in the use of music, minimizing the overtures and allowing the drama and tension to suffice as the tension needed.
Also, the film keeps the suspense heavy and the story weaving around, diving into different directions even if the plot doesnít seem as thick as it could be. Something more needs to happen than just mysterious gusts of wind and the crew going bonkers. Though Fessenden keeps his supernatural elements hidden until the time is right, he does a great job of showing insanity taking over the crew. Characters come in and out of visions, making for a surreal environment with little trickery. One great example comes from two characters talking over walky-talkies, one stuck outside in the elements and the other alone in a closet watching a crow pick at a burned corpse. A great, painful scene, one that blurs the line between reality and insanity. Is it that the hidden message of our own insanity when it comes to oil? Hmm.
Video / Audio
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Commentary: Director Larry Fessenden provides a dramatic commentary and comes across as a man truly proud of his work. And he should be. Itís a good listen, worth your time.
Making The Last Winter: Two hour doc that covers every element of the movie from deleted scenes, to the development, to interviews, to location scouting. Very interesting and fully encompassing of the experience.
The Last Winter is an excellent old school flick with a theme that outweighs the film. But donít let that scare anyone off because whether or not you believe in global warming; itís still effective entertainment for any viewer who digs a well-made thriller.