This movie ‘Deep Winter’ begins with the Eric Lively’s lead character of Tyler Crowe standing atop huge snow covered Alaskan mountain looking a bit reticent as he observes the steep cliffs beneath him. Dean (Michael Madsen), his guide, hovers overhead in his helicopter advising the young man that a storm is coming and that he better do what he has to do or get off the pot. But this is the end of the movie ‘Deep Winter’, a film that has some the most amazing photography that you will ever see, probably some of the best stunt skiing you’ll ever see outside of those dedicated Ski videos with the actual story supporting the great photography and fantastic skiing being secondary. Maybe even tertiary.
Before we get to Tyler on top of this killer mountain, we have to know what transpired for him to get to that point. We meet Tyler during an international skiing event, Tyler being the prototypical world class talent with the discipline of a two year old, and after his latest spectacular crash ruining yet another promising run, despite the best efforts of his coach (Robert Carradine) to guide him, Coach has had enough and releases him from the team.
Now back home not knowing what to do with his life Tyler first stops in at the local bar where the pretty Elisa (Peyton List) is serving up beers to the locals. Seems Tyler and Elisa have a bit of a love thing going on but considering Elisa’s over protective brother Mark (Kellen Lutz) is Tyler’s number one, they have to put their love on hold. Mark is to snowboards what Tyler is to skis and is in the process of having a documentary made about him by maverick skiing videographer Stephan Weeks (Luke Goss), with the pinnacle of this video being Mark and his snowboarding partner besting The Meteor, one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, and one that has already claimed the life of more than one skier.
As circumstance would have it, Mark’s partner breaks a bone and now Tyler has stepped in to takes his place, and so the pair, along with the film crew head up to Alaska to tackle this mountain. This is where they meet their guide Dean who has some experience skiing these mountains and does his best to show them the best way to tackle these beasts. Problem is that for whatever reason Mark has lost his focus, maybe because he’s discovered that Tyler is diddling his sister, or Tyler is stealing his limelight, but whatever the reason the two young men are at odds leading to Tyler abandoning his buddy and attempting to return to competitive skiing.
Chances are you will have figured out the deal here, considering that Tyler was standing on top of this mountain in the films opening scene all alone, but something bad happens and now Tyler has to return to this mountain to keep a promise to a friend whatever the cost.
With all great sports movies, say like ‘Rocky’, ‘The Natural’, ‘The Longest Yard’ and so forth the sport itself is more of a backdrop with the main focus of the narrative being the characters. This is why it isn’t necessary to be a boxing fan to enjoy ‘Rocky’ or a baseball fan to enjoy ‘The Natural’ because you’re rooting for Rocky Balboa and Roy Hobbs to succeed, no matter what they’re competing in. In ‘Deep Winter’ the star of the film is the sport itself. If you happen to be a fan of skiing and snowboarding then I have no doubt that you will thoroughly enjoy this movie considering the locations and backdrops are beautifully photographed and articulated and the skiing itself is amazing. But if you’re not a fan of this particular sport or are indifferent towards it then I’m not so sure of the movies value to you.
The characterizations here are sketchy at best given the majority of the first two acts of the movie are dedicated to watching pure white snow and acrobats on this snow. We get to meet the characters and basic personalities but that’s about it. The actors weren’t a problem but they just didn’t have a lot to do. Since a lot of time wasn’t dedicated to the characters, when certain important parts of the movie came up, say like the inevitable telegraphed tragedy, it just didn’t have the emotional impact it should’ve had. When Tyler was standing above the mountain looking down with the knowledge of what had just occurred days before, this should’ve been a very powerful scene but we don’t know Tyler all that well outside of the fact that he’s a great skier and he like cute chicks.
This is more disappointing because in the movies third act when director Mickey Hilb starts getting into the characters a bit more the movie works better, mainly because actors Eric Lively and Kellen Lutz play off of each other pretty well but unfortunately by then its too little too late, leading to an emotional climax that’s muted at best.
Still, the movie looks great and the skiing sequences are fantastic and like I said before if you’re a fan of the sport, outside of those dedicated ski videos, I’m betting you’ll really enjoy ‘Deep Winter’. It’s the rest of us out there that are on the short end.