Call it “The Revenant Lite,” and you won’t be far off the mark. “6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain,” another fact-based tale of resilience and endurance in the frozen wilderness, has Josh Hartnett cast as Eric LeMarque, a former pro hockey player who picks the worst possible time to go snowboarding in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and winds up wandering the unforgiving landscape for eight days while facing frostbite, hypothermia, starvation, dehydration and close encounters with big bad wolves. Unfortunately, director Scott Waugh (“Act of Valor”) and screenwriter Madison Turner somehow manage to make this struggle to survive seem only slightly more exciting than being stuck in rush-hour traffic.
The real-life Eric LeMarque wrote (with Davin Seay) an inspirational account of his misadventure, “Crystal Clear,” in which he credits God for giving him the strength to endure his lengthy exposure to harsh elements — and to more or less simultaneously overcome a crystal meth addiction. In adapting LeMarque’s book, Waugh and Turner soft-pedal the elements that normally define faith-based movies; the dialogue contains a couple of biblical references, but that’s pretty much the extent of the overtly religious allusions. On the other hand, the filmmakers generate some mild suspense while showing how LeMarque brought a whole new meaning to the expression “going cold turkey” while trudging through the snow without benefit of self-medication.
Trouble is, while Hartnett earns respect for the physical discomfort he (and his stunt double) obviously suffered during the on-location outdoor filming in Utah, he simply lacks sufficient charisma here for the audience to empathize with his character’s plight. And it doesn’t help much that long stretches of “6 Below” are nothing more than tediously repetitious shots of LeMarque lost in the wilderness, interspersed with melodramatic (and overacted) flashbacks to his troubled past.
Over a period of time, we learn rather more than we really need to know about little Eric’s love-hate relationship with his demanding and hard-drinking hockey coach dad (Jason Cottle), his hot-headed sabotaging of his own pro career, and his subsequent descent into drug addiction. It’s easy to imagine impatient viewers fidgeting during these flashbacks while thinking: “Geez, can’t we go back to the snow?”
Appreciably more bearable are scenes in which LeMarque’s distraught mother, played by Mira Sorvino, begs a search-and-rescue squad chief (Sarah Dumont) to locate and save her son. The bond that is quickly yet credibly forged between these two women arguably is the most compelling thing in “6 Below.” And, mind you, almost all of their scenes take place indoors, at room temperature.