The Last Winter

01/14/2022 14:28

Film: The Last Winter

Year: 2006

Director: Larry Fessenden

Writer: Larry Fessenden and Robert Leaver

Starring: Ron Perlman, James Le Gros and Connie Britton



This is a movie that I heard on a podcast, but it has been a while. I’m not even sure which one at this point. I decided to check this out as well due to looking for winter horror movies. When I saw that it was co-written/directed by Larry Fessenden, which added to it as well. Other than, I just knew that Ron Perlman was in this movie and that intrigued me more. The synopsis here is sent to evaluate the environmental impact of oil drilling in the Arctic, James Hoffman (James Le Gros) clashes with the drilling crew’s chief, who wants to get the job done.

For this movie, we start with Maxwell McKinder (Zach Gilford) watching a VHS tape. It gives us a bit of back-story about North Industries getting clearance from congress to drill in the tundra in northern Alaska that is protected land. They had a test site, but they haven’t been able to go farther than that. The crew that we are following is the ones that are trying to do just that and get it going.

The chief from the synopsis is Ed Pollack (Perlman). He arrives via a small plane and the pilot leaves in a hurry after dropping him off. Ed meets with the crew here. There is Abby Sellers (Connie Britton) who he has a history with. There is the mechanic of Motor (Kevin Corrigan), Elliot Jenkins (Jamie Harrold) who is part of the impact team along with Hoffman. Ed is shocked to find there are two guys doing this, as they are both there for the environmental concerns of what they’re trying to do. We also have Lee Means (Pato Hoffmann) and Dawn Russell (Joanne Shenandoah). Ed is looking for Maxwell, who is a friend of the family and he’s keeping an eye on.

It should be pointed out that Ed is a company man. He is bothered to find out that Abby is seeing Hoffman, as I said, since they have history together. Ed is also annoyed that the ice road is not completed. Hoffman and Elliot point out that the high temperatures are the cause. They’re pointing to global warming, but Ed doesn’t believe in that. He wants Hoffman to be a yes man to approve another way to get the equipment there, but he won’t do it.

There is something wrong here though. Maxwell can feel it along with Hoffman and Elliot. The temperatures are much too high. Worry starts when Maxwell disappears. Hoffman misses a meeting when a strange wind blows into his blind. Ed thinks that everyone is just being negative and needs to get their heads straight. More strange things happen and when Maxwell disappears into the night, Hoffman tries to get the rest to see. Ed puts the needs of the company over the lives of the station. There could be something natural or supernatural happening here to explain this, but regardless it is a nightmare in this isolated station.

That is where I’ll leave my recap. Where I’m going to start my recap of elements of the movie would be setting. We are in northern Alaska, so it feels a bit like The Thing. I think that works. We know that the weather is going to be bad so you can’t just walk to the next station. It isn't too far away from civilization, but far enough. There is an ice road, but they’re struggling to complete it. That is part of the reason for Ed’s visit. The movie does well in setting up that despite how warm it is here, it is still cold. That works well for the atmosphere. The other thing is that when it's dark out, it is pitch black. The only time it isn’t is when the Northern Lights can be seen.

Going from there, we have the premise of the movie which could have a logical or a supernatural explanation. I’m a fan when a movie can do that. For the logical reasoning, Hoffman keeps pointing out that part of the problem here is that the permafrost is melting. He is claiming that because of this, low grade poison gas is leaking up. Ed doesn’t buy it. He says it is farther down. Hoffman acknowledges that, but I like that Maxwell feels there is something wrong. Lee does too. This is interesting to me, because it could almost be that the Earth is fighting back. It knows what humanity is doing and it is trying to protect itself. This is a concept we’ve seen before, but I like the difference this movie is doing with it.

Now that I’ve given this one, I’ll go to the supernatural explanation. Lee and Dawn are both Native American. She thinks it could be the Chenoo, which looks like a yeti or the abominable snowman. The other possibility is the evil spirit wendigo. It does seem they’re leaning into the latter. We get this interesting looking thing where it looks like caribou running across the tundra. There is also the sound of hooves with it. This could be caused by hallucinations or this could be what is protecting the Earth.

Then the last part of the story that I want to go into would be the social commentary. We are looking at the dangers of capitalism. Ed is convinced that God wants this pipeline to go in. He’s also bought into the idea that by putting this in will make America no longer energy dependent, which I do not believe. There are multiple times he scolds his crew for their negativity. It is funny; I’ve had bosses say similar things. Everything he does is for the good of the company, even if it destroys the environment. I like seeing Hoffman and even Elliot push back against him. This can be a bit heavy handed, but I also think that it works for the message they’re conveying.

So that should be enough for the story of the movie and I’ll take this over to the acting. Perlman is good as this villain here. He thinks that he’s doing what is best, but it is only for profits and his job. I like that he could get me to hate his character when I know he’s a solid human in real life. I like Le Gros as his counterpart. I like what he is fighting for. Britton is solid as Abby. She has some deeper things that get revealed that were interesting to me. Where her intentions lie was something I wasn’t expecting. I like Gilford in his role. I feel bad for him. Corrigan, Harrold, Hoffmann, Shenandoah and the rest of the cast are all solid. It was interesting to see that Fessenden makes a small cameo as well. I do like him.

Then the last things to go into would be the effects, cinematography and the soundtrack. For the former, we don’t get a lot of them. I think they do well in making it feel like there is a blizzard going on and the isolation from that. The little practical effects we get look good. There is some CGI near the end that doesn’t look great. It isn’t the worst though either. I can be forgiving due to a reason for the explanation I gave earlier. The cinematography I thought was great. It looked good to me. The soundtrack also didn’t stand out, but I did like what they did with the sound design.

In conclusion, this movie is interesting. We have a good commentary on a real problem here. I like the atmosphere of the movie and the dread that grows from it. It is interesting to have a natural or a supernatural explanation. Either could explain what is happening. The acting is good across the board. That is what carries this movie. I’d say that the effects we get are solid. Not all of the CGI works, but it also doesn’t ruin the movie. I like what they do with the sound design and the music for the movie is fine. I would say that for me, this is an above average movie. It is just lacking some aspects for me to say this is good.


My Rating: 7 out of 10