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Review: True survivalist story 'Centigrade' makes for solid thriller

Courtesy of IFC Midnight


Containment thrillers, or bottle locations aren’t a new staple in Hollywood, but when executed correctly - “Buried,” and “Locke” among them - it can prove very effective. In Brandon Walsh’s feature debut, “Centigrade,” there are only two characters in the film: a husband/wife duo that awaken in their car to discover they’ve been iced in with literally nowhere to go. 

Supposedly “based on a true story,” when in 2002 this happened, “Centigrade” doesn’t rewrite the textbook on crafting isolated thrills, however, there’s 90 minutes of decent performances and a premise that’s moderately compelling to make up for obvious shortcomings. The filmmakers even manage to throw in a few twists and turns along the way, resulting in several moments that left me squirming. 

Currently in the middle of a book tour in Norway, Naomi (Genesis Rodriguez) and Matt (Vincent Piazza) have just awakened in their vehicle on the side of the road. The engine doesn’t turn, the windows don’t roll down, and the food/water supply is vastly limited. Matt exclaims they’re parked on a busy highway and that someone will locate them and to just give it time. But on the outside they’re buried feet below a snow bank, and the temperatures continue to drop. In other words, they’re a needle in a haystack. 

You can sense there’s already some friction in the relationship because Naomi grills her husband on his decision to pull off to the side of the road. This isn’t normal marriage bickering either, there’s subtext suggesting the two have been on the rocks for some time. Which is awkward because now they’re stuck with each other, and have to conjure a plan to escape their confinement. But how to do that when you’re miles away from civilization? And if you leave the vehicle, what will you do for heat? These are questions the two debate while exploring all their options, which isn’t many. 

Of course, it’s 2002 and a small NIKA cell phone won’t pull a signal, so that’s out of the question (I imagine the film needed to be set in 2002 because if it were today, it would be too easy to call for help) and then you have to wonder where the bathroom is going to be. And did I mention that Naomi is eight months pregnant? 

It’s not long before days turn into weeks. From a performance standpoint, Rodriguez and Piazza make the most of their limitations (apparently they lost excessive weight as the production went on to help simulate the events on camera). Though it does become a bit repetitive as the psychological and mental events take their toll, “Centigrade” doesn’t show flashbacks to the couple’s life, instead keeping the action to one location. Perhaps some indication of how future movies are made post pandemic? 

Nevertheless, there’s plenty of artistic and technical challenges on display here, like shooting in a refrigerated environment with minimal space, that make this film easier to admire. Thankfully, the actors rose to the challenge and overcome their restraints, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone so close to giving birth would travel to a foreign country in the middle of a huge snowstorm.

Grade: B

CENTIGRADE will be available on VOD starting Friday August 28th. 


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