All Hallow’s Lee – BEAR ISLAND
Here it is, not even the end of October and it snowed today in Minneapolis. Back when I first moved here in ’94 I found it rather disquieting that it regularly snowed in October. While coming from Wisconsin you’d think I’d be used to the winters that awaited me in the Twin Cities, but that is simply not the case. I never saw snowfall like I did in the Cities, and I certainly never had to deal with the extreme cold that Minnesota loves to envelope you in for weeks on end. Seriously, it gets so cold it hurts to breath. Your lungs hurt. It’s the kind of uncomfortable pain I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Two years ago the entire month of January was below zero. That’s an entire month of waking up knowing that you’re going to have a shitty day, all because of how damn cold it is. But I suppose it could be worse, I could be living on Bear Island.
Bear Island is a remote island off the coast of Norway where a crew of scientists are gathering to study climate change. In 1979. No one knows why it is called Bear Island, as there are no bears on the island. But it is populated with U-Boats, avalanches and Lloyd Bridges. Who can barely stand being there. Boom. Obvious pun executed.
Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, the movie bares little in common with the book outside of the title. Seriously, I could keep these puns up the whole damn review, because writing them is way more fun than I had watching this shitty movie.
The film is meant to be a mystery box in which no one is who you think they are. The problem is, you don’t spend more than a few seconds with any character outside of Lansing (Donald Sutherland). With so little time spent even learning the character’s names is it any wonder you could give a rat’s ass when their inevitable heel turn occurs?
Take for instance the focus of our little month-long endeavor, the great Sir Christopher Lee. Despite fourth billing, the man is in only 3 scenes and might barely cross the threshold of a dozen lines, all spat through an awful Russian accent that never successfully masks the fact he’s quite British. But no matter, he’s killed off before the second reel ends so none of us have to continue to suffer through that damn accent.
It doesn’t help matters that the plot is truly ridiculous and full of convenient twists that only make the movie seem ever more ludicrous with each passing second. From Lansing happening upon the island where his father commanded a U-Boat, to the concern that diverting a few rivers will destroy the entire Earth’s Eco-system, to the search for Nazi gooooooooooooold.
The one interesting thing I continually took from Bear Island is the stylistic similarities to John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing. From the group of scientists trapped in a frozen wilderness with no radio contact to the outside world. That the group is constantly trapped indoors, fighting with one another, and accusing each other of being someone they may or may not be only adds to the similarities.
Unfortunately, these moments are always far too fleeting, and serve more to set up truly languid action sequences of people driving all over the island. Carpenter realized that just staying with his characters, and allowing their paranoia to fester in a single scene was far more compelling and unnerving to watch, whereas Bear Island simply just wants to get to the next plot point. It’s been some time since I’ve witnessed a film in this much of a rush to get to the end of its story, with nary a care for pacing, character or the audience’s enjoyment.
It’s truly unbearable.