'6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain': Film Review

6 Below - Still1 - H 2016
Courtesy of Good Universe
It will be a miracle if you stay awake.

Josh Hartnett stars in this real-life adventure tale about a man struggling to survive on a mountain in freezing temperatures.

If people believed everything they saw in the movies, there would be a stampede toward mountains experiencing blizzard conditions. After all, you may find yourself fighting for survival with the likes of Kate Winslet or Idris Elba and enjoying some hot sex in the process. Or, like Josh Hartnett’s character in 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain, you would have the opportunity to kick that nasty drug habit and turn your troubled life around.  

In this faith-based drama based on real events, Hartnett plays Eric LeMarque, a former professional hockey player who, at the story’s beginning, is in the throes of a meth addiction and facing a jail sentence. An avid snowboarder, Eric impulsively decides to spend a day in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains just as a storm approaches. Short on winter gear and lacking food, he finds himself trapped there for eight days in freezing temperatures. Fighting the elements and fending off wolves, he’s also forced to deal with drug withdrawal.

Naturally, the experience prompts some soul-searching, which includes flashbacks to his troubled childhood dealing with a domineering, abusive father (Jason Cottle) and his hockey career in which his selfish grandstanding cost his team. Meanwhile, his worried mother (Mira Sorvino, only 10 years older than Hartnett, but hey, it’s a movie) urgently attempts to rouse the authorities into a rescue attempt.

During his ordeal, Eric falls through the ice into freezing water (providing the opportunity for Hartnett to strip off his clothing for a discreetly filmed nude scene) and resorts to some extreme measures to keep alive, including at one point eating his own flesh.

Director Scott Waugh (Need for Speed) and screenwriter Ailish Bracken somehow find a way to make these harrowing events supremely tedious onscreen. Endless stretches of the film essentially feature Hartnett wandering silently and painfully through the snow, and suffice it to say that he isn’t nearly as compelling in isolation as Robert Redford in All Is Lost. Nor is he as interesting delivering a final recorded message to a loved one as James Franco in 127 Hours, another film to which this one greatly suffers by comparison.

Not only does 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain blandly echo these and other movies, but it also gently steps around the issues that could set it apart: the story’s religious and drug addiction themes. As a result, the film just seems to lack the courage of its convictions. Hartnett doesn’t bring much depth to his troubled character, making it hard for the viewer to care about his fate. Considering the title, it’s not much of a spoiler alert to reveal that LeMarque survived. In the real-life footage of him seen during the credits, we learn that he’s become a motivational speaker. It doesn’t come as a surprise.

Production companies: Dune Entertainment, October Sky Films, Sonar Entertainment, Tucker Tooley Entertainment
Distributor: Momentum Pictures
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Mira Sorvino, Sarah Dumont, Kale Brady Culley, Jason Cottle
Director: Manuel Puro
Screenwriter: Ailish Bracken
Producers: Simon Swart, Bradley Pilz, Scott Waugh, Tucker Tooley, Josh Hartnett
Executive producers: Greg Renker, Tom Lesinski, Louise Linton, Greg P. Russell, Madison Turner, David Grace, Michael Mailis, Eric Lemargque
Director of photography: Michael Svitak
Editors: Vashi Nedomansky, Scott Waugh
Costume designer: Jaqueline Newell
Composer: Nathan Furst
Casting: Rich Delia, Jeff Johnson

Rated PG-13, 98 minutes