Saturday 2 December 2023

Movie Review: Ice Station Zebra (1968)

Genre: Cold War Espionage Thriller
Directors: John Sturges
Starring: Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown
Running Time: 149 minutes

Synopsis: After a spy satellite carrying a coveted capsule falls back to Earth, the US Navy's submarine Commander James Ferraday (Rock Hudson) is dispatched to Ice Station Zebra in the Arctic. On board the sub is British spy Jones (Patrick McGoohan) on a secret mission, joined by Russian double-agent Vaslov (Ernest Borgnine) and US Marines Captain Anders (Jim Brown). The dangerous journey below the ice includes an attempted sabotage, but the extent of Ferraday's challenge only becomes apparent when the group arrives at their frigid destination.

What Works Well: The under-the-ice cinematography is excellent, and the best moments celebrate Cold War hardware: submarine, satellites, and planes. The sabotage sequence carries decent tension.

What Does Not Work As Well: The adaptation of Alistair MacLean's novel is overlong and remarkably dull. Essential plot drivers are kept hidden for the best part of two hours, and when finally revealed, none of the details pass even the most cursory logic inspection. The characters are cardboard cutouts with no background or personality, and the final climax is a ridiculous showdown on an unconvincing set.

Conclusion: A sloppy combination of senseless plotting and slack execution.

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