The Film Formula: The Frozen Ground

The Film Formula: The Frozen Ground

We discover the different elements behind the criminal thriller starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack

The Film Formula is our series aimed at boiling down big releases to their most basic elements. This time round, it’s The Frozen Ground

From the off, there are strong suggestions of The Frozen Ground's place in the lineage of serial killer thrillers. The fact that this one is inspired by real life American murderer Robert Hanson, who was apprehended in the 1980s, means it bears a distinct resemblance to The Iceman – the story of real life American contract killer Richard Kuklinski, also apprehended in the 1980s. Both killers were upstanding family men, although Kuklinski had something of a moral code (similar to Leon's 'no women, no kids' rule) that Hanson lacked (all his victims were young women). Perhaps Kuklinski's professionalism separates him too far from the comparison with Hanson then; to look for a more similar killer, we'd have to look at...

... 'Buffalo Bill' (aka Jame Gumb) the killer-at-large in The Silence of the Lambs. Like Hanson, Gumb (whose character was also inspired by a real-life killer, Ed Gein) was a killer of women; like Silence, The Frozen Ground also tackles its plot from the investigator's point of view, sending beleaguered cop Jack Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) into the muted grey Alaskan landscape in search of his perp, much as Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) traipsed the muted brown backwoods of West Virginia. Halcombe doesn't have a friendly neighbourhood cannibal to help him out, but then, he doesn't need to – he's already pretty damn sure he's found his killer in Hanson, who's played in The Frozen Ground by...

... John Cusack, doubling down on that bad guy persona he developed in The Paperboy. Critical opinion was split by Lee Daniels' steamy Floridian sleazefest, but it was definitely refreshing to see Cusack busting out of that likable schmoe schtick he's perfected throughout his career. That said, the bayous of the American south couldn't be more at odds with The Frozen Ground's er, frozen grounds in Alaska - that's something it has much more in common with...

... Insomnia (the Christopher Nolan version), which has Al Pacino's grizzled cop hunting down Robin Williams' undoubtedly guilty suspect. Which, come to think of it, is also near enough exactly the plot of The Frozen Ground.

(The Iceman + The Silence of the Lambs x The Paperboy) / Insomnia = The Frozen Ground

The Frozen Ground Official UK Trailer (2013) - Nicolas Cage Movie HD

The Frozen Ground

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • 1h 45min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Scott Walker
  • Written by: Scott Walker
  • Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Nicolas Cage, John Cusack
  • UK release: 19 July 2013

Robert Hansen (Cusack) is a serial killer whose latest victim, Cindy Paulson (Hudgens) escapes, enabling Alaska state trooper Halcombe (Cage) to connect numerous unsolved crimes. An odd and not quite successful mix of formulaic thriller and true crime story; Cage is fine, Hudgens is solid and sympathetic but Cusack is…