Recently some films have decided to take on a lead character who isn’t particularly likeable and have them go on an adventure. This real story takes a professional hockey player whose busy losing his life to drugs and has him get lost in a snowstorm. Can we still care when the main character’s an idiot?
The disasters faced
Drug addiction, dangerous skiing, the directional abilities of a lemming, hypothermia, frostbite, infection and the wildlife on the mountain.
Josh Harnett’s character Eric is portrayed as a man who needs saving. A professional ice hockey player – you would initially think this would be a rags to riches and then down in the gutter story. However, he didn’t seem particularly happy or nice beforehand either. We get a few flashbacks to show his family life was highly pressured for success and so the film decides his absent dad has made him a monster.
Cut to present day and Eric is on another drug-fuelled bender on a skiing holiday. The problem being said drugs binge gives him extra confidence to tackle a harder ski trail – just as the bad weather closes in. Eric gets stuck on the mountain and his problems are two-fold. Firstly he needs to survive and get down the mountain to safety before either the cold or the wildlife get to him. Secondly, with his post-drug withdrawal kicking in, Eric also has to deal with addiction come down and the mental torture that brings. With his mum at base camp arguing for search and rescue to find him – will Eric survive?
Why is it worth watching?
I have some very mixed views on this film but its certainly not without merit. Firstly, the acting is great – Josh particularly having to act most of his scenes on his own. There’s some really interesting scenes regarding injuries, wolves, self-preservation and the potentially controversial “eating yourself” scene – but they aren’t given the gravitas that they should be. It pushes me to think that this is basically a Disney like movie about near death addiction so it skips over the mental turmoil. It’s relatively tightly paced as its clearly designed to fit in a TV 2 hour with advert slot. There is also a post-story catch up with real life Eric LeMarque to show what he is up to in real life now, and the extent of his injuries. That does help ground what feels like a generally unlikeable character in some kind of humility and respect.
The unlikable aspect is one of the biggest problems of 6 Below for me. Each flashback to try and pave some empathy to Eric feels clunky. The story beats in the movie are too clumsy and come too late and so as a viewer, you already feel disconnected and not invested in his plight or rescue. “Flight” had this same issue with me, but came layered with the question “if the very fact someone was vile is the reason why he somehow saved loads of lives – is he now a hero?” Here there isn’t a question – he is being a dick.
6 Below also has a lot of blatant religious imagery – particularly in its final third. Each time Eric needs to think or learn something, he is marched passed religious imagery until he is knackered enough to realise he is an idiot. It just didn’t grab me no matter how beautiful the backdrop was.
Beyond this problem, Josh’s onscreen mum Mira Sorvino looks only 5-10 years older and is relatively ineffectual – providing a side story to let time pass for Josh to return more tired and cold than before. It’s very by-the-numbers enlightenment and you can tell this movie will portray the whole experience as the best experience of their lives.
The way the mountain is shot and used throughout the film adds weight and credibility to the whole project. It’s beautifully captured and shows both its beauty and the danger within. According to IMDB 6 Below is also the first film natively shot in 6K which may be why it looks extra crisp. There’s also some decent gore and frostbite make up for some gungy shots of injuries.
I’ve lamented over Eric enough and he takes up a good 80% of the screen time. Mira Sorvino’s brings in the emotional grunt for her scenes as the worried mum and her sole purpose in the movie is to make the rescue workers cry with her so they’ll send out a helicopter.
‘I got hit, I fell, I got back up. That’s how I won… until I got hit by something I couldn’t beat.’
Three memorable moments
- Self-cannibalism for dinner
- Some of the beautiful sweeping shots of the snowy mountain itself
- The epilogue to see real-life Eric and what happened to him
The obligatory weird moment…
It’s less about being weird but when a rescue worker says its too dangerous to fly their helicopter, they shouldn’t be emotionally blackmailed into doing so because they start to cry alongside someone. I’m not normally this cynical but my eyes rolled so hard – what did this movie turn me into?!
The drinking game
I have two! Glug, glug! Firstly – spot the Christian symbology everywhere in the movie and have a shot each time. If you are feeling brave you can also play ‘Phone Ex-Machina’ as Eric’s phone manages to know exactly when and when not to work for dramatic effect.
I rolled my eyes so hard throughout because an unlikable and unrelatable character thinks he is so beyond the rules, that he goes and gets lost on a mountain and causes himself harm. Despite great acting, decent pacing and lovely scenery – I couldn’t help but want to nitpick my way through the film and didn’t enjoy it much. There’s probably something decent here for people wanting an easy Sunday afternoon watch – but I was disappointed and disconnected from the experience.
Rating – 2/5 Poor
If you liked 6 Below then you may like…
- Everest – yet more real-life mountain adventures have gone horribly wrong
- Flight – another unlikeable lead character but with a deeper moral question
- Alive – deals with cannibalism with far more gravitas
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*This review was updated on 30/06/19 to the sites new format.