6 Below Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled “Miracle on the Mountain”, so it can’t help but be an inspirational movie that tugs on the heartstrings. But it’s a shame that’s all filmmaker Scott Waugh (Need for Speed) aims for here. And despite the stunning settings, his limited approach leaves this feeling like little more than a TV movie of the week. Still, it’s a story worth telling.


The film is based on the memoir by Eric LeMarque (played by Josh Hartnett), who when the story starts is trying to get his life back on track while he’s kicking a drug habit. Waiting for his day in court, he decides to blow off some steam on the slopes, so heads up to do some off-piste snowboarding. Then a sudden whiteout leaves him lost in an unfamiliar snow-buried wilderness, chased by wolves. Over the next eight days, he struggles to find a way out. Meanwhile, his mother (Mira Sorvino) gets in touch with a ski patrol officer (Sarah Dumont) to organise a search.


The screenplay has the ring of a true story in the series of details on-screen, things that would almost be unbelievable if they didn’t really happen. LeMarque’s account of his ordeal includes a series of scary experiences combined with some real soul-searching as he imagines himself as a young boy (Kale Brady Culley) trying to live up to the expectations of his demanding hockey coach dad (Jason Cottle). Hartnett is superb in the survival sequences, demonstrating raw physicality in some gruelling moments. And he also manages to make this self-destructive, arrogant jerk surprisingly likeable. Meanwhile, Sorvino gets to inject some emotion into the film as his expressive mother. Although Dumont’s role is essentially limited to a few sexy action-girl moments.


Waugh does set this story beautifully amid some seriously spectacular mountain peaks, and he also captures Eric’s love of the sport as well as his tenacity to survive even when things look hopeless. But there’s very little suspense, since we know he’ll make it out. And the script’s decision to crank up the melodrama in the flashbacks feels very pushy, making sure we get the already obvious messages about what’s really important in life. The fact that this really happened makes Eric’s odyssey powerfully moving. And the film carries an extra kick when it brings out the real Eric LeMarque for a speech and a clip-reel at the end.