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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Sense Of Snow’ Is Thrilling, Chilling

By Jeff Sackmann Mead

Up for a thriller that makes “Absolute Power” look like a cheerful walk on the beach? “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” is definitely for you.

In my experience watching suspense movies, I have never seen a film shot with so little light. Throughout the entire movie, no one is ever happy. Virtually no one ever smiles, and the themes are darker still.

“Smilla” sends a message about big business, ambition and corruption. This message is one of the most sinister that Hollywood has ever turned out.

The plot of “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” is set into motion after a young boy dies. Authorities call it an accident.

Smilla Jesperson (Julia Ormond) witnessed his death and doesn’t believe it was an accident. Smilla knows that the boy was afraid of heights and senses that there is something the authorities are hiding.

Smilla has a boring, and extremely depressing existence but is so angry about this cover-up that she takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of the case.

With more than a few threats and challenges along the way, Smilla’s trail leads her to Greenland Mining. She finds that the boy was on an expedition with his father, who was killed on the trip. She also discovers that a prominent doctor visited the child every month, and that the head of Greenland Mining was trying to buy off the boy’s mother. So she is at once closer to, and further from, the answer to the mystery.

Julia Ormond has not always been the most critically acclaimed actress in Hollywood, but she shows in “Smilla’s Sense of Snow” that she can carry a film. She is on screen virtually every minute, and although she never smiles, she keeps the movie interesting.

Since there is a surprisingly small amount of dialogue in the film, Ormond also has the burden of expressing much of the material through body language, which she manages equally well.

The only problem is the lack of other complex characters. While there are people that drift in and out of Smilla’s life, they only serve a single purpose to her and are not very interesting on their own. Luckily, Ormond was good enough to get around that.

“Smilla’s Sense of Snow” is the kind of thriller that usually is found only in novels. It is extremely intelligent and keeps the viewer guessing until the final credits. The film masters the art of answering pressing questions, but leaves enough unanswered to maintain a high level of suspense.

And that suspense is frighteningly constant. It truly doesn’t stop until the film’s end.

Even if you don’t like Julia Ormond, you might like “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” With the exception of a few sloppy special effects, every part of the film represents an impressive attention to detail and talent from all persons involved.

Grade: B+

Wordcount: 477
Tags: movie review

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