Arctic Blast (2010)

The Sydney Opera House is overcome by the big chill in Arctic Blast.

Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Starring: Michael Shanks, Alexandra Davies, Bruce Davison, Indiana Evans, Saskia Hampele

”Disaster-by-numbers” is the term that appears in my mind somewhere about halfway through Arctic Blast. While this Australian/Canadian co-production certainly isn’t the worst I’ve seen, the unimaginative way it checks off every required item on the Disaster Movie Clichés List makes for rather sleepy viewing.

An introductory caption informs us that the coldest part of Earth is not the North or South pole, but 35 miles above our heads in the mesosphere. As the ozone layer, weakened by pollution, opens up above Tasmania, super-cold air streams down into the atmosphere and forms a lethal cold front headed for the city of Hobart (and beyond that, mainland Australia). It is cold enough to instantly freeze a human body, a fact that the unfortunate crew of a climate research ship discover the hard way.

The threat is discovered by brilliant climatologist Jack Tate (Shanks), who warns his boss in the International Climate Research Organization, one Mr Winslaw (Davison). Jack is in the middle of divorce proceedings, as his wife (Davies) has grown tired of moving around the world because of Jack’s work. As the cosmic cold front, manifesting itself as an icy mist, closes in on Australia, Jack tries to find a solution, while making sure his teenage daughter (Evans) and wife are safe.

In the tried-and-true way of disaster films, the people in charge stubbornly ignore Jack’s advice and go ahead with their own plan which, of course, fails miserably. New ozone rifts open up all over the globe, sending super chill towards London, Moscow and Tokyo. Only now does Winslaw ask for Jack’s help. Jack’s plan is to fire some warheads into the ozone hole, which will produce lightning that somehow closes the rift. (Sounds familiar? Yes, lightning bolts aside, it’s more or less the same concept as in Countdown: The Sky’s on Fire.)

I’m not sure I trust the science in this one. I mean, would you lay the fate of the world in the hands of a guy who will treat a hypoglycemic diabetic by injecting her with insulin? Which is exactly what Jack does in one of the climactic sequences of the story, and which probably indicates the amount of research made by the screenwriter. And apart from less than credible science, Arctic Blast offers a bunch of inconsistencies and logical errors, if you enjoy that kind of stuff. Like that icy mist that will freeze a human body solid in a matter of seconds and drop airplanes out of the sky, but won’t stop Jack from starting his car on the first attempt and can be fought off with a couple of blankets and a small fire in an old stone house…

But hey, I feel that we should allow for some artistic license when it comes to disaster movies. Those silly details can be a lot of fun in the right circumstances. The main problem with Arctic Blast, however, is that it is so utterly uninspired and bland. I’ve seen it called ”edge-of-seat” as well as ”so-bad-it’s-good”, and while I certainly don’t agree with the former, I don’t feel the latter is correct either. This is just a run-of-the-mill low-budget disaster film going where just about every other low-budget disaster film has gone before, and without a single original take on the material. The visual effects are lackluster (waves of thick fog will never look all that exciting, I guess), the family subplot is dutifully tacked on, clumsy exposition helps you spot every plot twist from miles away, the few attempts at action are anemic, and the acting ranges from passable to wooden. At least Category 7 had Randy Quaid.

Rating: 1/5

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