Getting stranded in the snow until you freeze to death is — in addition to terrifying and heart-wrenching — probably one of the more boring ways to go. But fortunately for viewers of “Snowbound,” the telefilm version of the ordeal of Jim and Jennifer Stolpa nicely captures the terror and the heartache of their brush with icy death and leaves most of the boredom back in the editing room.
Neil Patrick Harris and Kelli Williams give thoroughly credible and moving turns as the unlucky, arguably foolish and ultimately heroic motorists who got themselves and their infant son trapped for eight days in the snow-choked Nevada wilderness. Harris and Williams pull off the necessary and difficult based-on-a-true-story feat of keeping their characters flawed and believably human, yet thoroughly likable and sympathetic.
Michael Gross and Susan Clark, as the anxiety-wracked parents, also excel, as does the rest of the supporting cast.
Director Christian Duguay and scripter Jonathan Rintels are more than up to the task of taking about 45 minutes worth of story and spreading it skillfully and evenly over the two-hour slot.
Rintels manages to avoid too much finger-pointing — the CHP ends up looking apathetic and foolish, but the responsibility for the Stolpas’ dilemma and their survival rests with themselves and the whims of fate.
Peter Woeste’s on-location lensing in B.C. and the Yukon is haunting and often spectacular, a highlight of this well-crafted telefilm.