Synopsis: A married couple find themselves trapped in their frozen vehicle after a blizzard and struggle to survive amid plunging temperatures and unforeseen obstacles.
Stars: Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent Piazza, Mavis Simpson-Ernst
Director: Brendan Walsh
Running Length: 89 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Some people say that it’s never as fun to watch suspense movies alone as it is to turn off all the lights and hunker down with another person. I could go both ways with that. If you’re watching with someone that can handle the scares and will go along for the ride, sure, that’s fun but if you’re in the presence of an unwilling participant that’s going to make light of the frights as a way to relieve their own fears, then you’re in for a long 90 minutes. Then there are the thrillers that sort of demand you have another viewer with you so you can commiserate on the people in the film and that’s where it’s always handy to know who you’re watching with.
I had intended to watch Centigrade all by my lonesome because it looked to be the kind of chilly thriller fare my partner just doesn’t go for but he stuck around for the first few minutes of this based-on-true-life events and was intrigued enough to put his feet up and hang out for a while. This was a good thing for two reasons. The first is I was glad he was around so I could vent my frustration at the situation the lone couple featured in the film find themselves in and the second was that this turned out to be one of those interesting relationship-building movies where you find yourself asking how you’d react if you were in the same situation with your significant other.
After stopping in the middle of the night on the side of a mountain road due to bad weather conditions, pregnant writer Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez, Man on a Ledge) and her husband Matt (Vincent Piazza, Jersey Boys) awake to find the blizzard they were in has covered their vehicle with ice and snow, fully trapping them in their rental car. In Norway to promote her book, no one knows precisely where they were on this leg of their trip and with no cell phone reception, they aren’t even sure how far they were from their hotel when they pulled over. Reasonably consoloed someone will be coming by their frozen fortress soon, they wait. And wait. The waiting turns to panic as they realize they are entombed in ice on a desolate stretch of road and with limited supplies may not be rescued for days.
At first, the couple is observant of the needs of their spouse and tries their best to accommodate the little things that might annoy them otherwise in consideration of the situation. The space they have to move around in is small, though, and before long paranoia creeps in and begins to unravel husband and wife as the days stretch on and all hope seems lost. When they disagree on how to move forward and with Naomi’s pregnancy coming to the forefront of their worry, bold choices have to be made that could end up being the difference between a cold death in the elements if they break free or a slow decline in the car if they choose to stay where they are. Staying in the car has created an igloo effect which is keeping them relatively secure but would breaking a window and chancing the urge to dig their way out help their overall odds?
I’d imagine watching Centigrade with your loved one might inspire some debate over who is the in the right as the film progresses. I definitely found myself talking back to the screen more than I had at other films lately and found that I alternated sides with Matt and Naomi throughout…the more they came to loggerheads the deeper I tended to dig my heels in for either party. That should say something for both the performances of Rodriguez and Piazza and the writing of director Brendan Walsh and Daley Nixon. While I could see this being written off as a one-note slog that begins to swallow itself into wallow territory around the 60 minute mark, I found it oddly compelling viewing…even when my thoughts drifted to thinking about where all the #2’s were being put.
Neither actor is any kind of household name but they both have the kind of movie-star looks that keep them from truly portraying “real” people. Piazza tends to fly fairly under the radar and some attempts by Walsh and Nixon to flesh out his backstory don’t pan out as intended but he has a good chemistry with Rodriguez. For her part, Rodriguez is saddled with a strangely half-explored medication issue but still manages to keep the fires of interest burning when things start to get cold in the final stretch. I wish there were a few more of the heated exchanges we get early on in the film between the two but the need to conserve energy realistically sadly outweighs the desire for more dramatic tension and the liveliness peters out to a few random blips as Walsh moves the film toward its predictable conclusion.
While it could have tightened up a bit more heading into its last act, Centigrade makes for a mostly taut 90 minutes that could also double as a bit of easy couples shout therapy. At several points, I was thankful that Walsh and Nixon’s script was so sparse because it gave us a chance to discuss what we’d do in the same situation…and then argue with one another as to why the other person’s plan wouldn’t work. Lack of propulsive drive forward may knock it down a few degrees, but Centigrade is still good for a few chills.