Review: ‘6 Below: Miracle On The Mountain’ Starring Josh Hartnett

Imagine a story about an adventure-seeking loner who decides to go on an adrenaline-fueled solo trip in a dangerous place without telling his loved ones.  That same loner then becomes stranded through unfortunate circumstances and has to brave the element on his lonesome.  The loner has to go through a bit of self-sacrifice in order to stay alive as he has no rescue coming. The loner has to then revisit his life, his choices, and vow to make himself a better should he survive this ordeal.

No this isn’t 127 Hours, instead another true story: 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain.  The story almost entirely focuses on Eric LeMarque (Josh Hartnett), a former professional hockey player who goes into the mountains to work on his substance abuse issues (and pending court case surrounding it) who then becomes stranded while snowboarding and is left to fend for himself for some harrowing eight days in the wilderness.  Loosely based on the real-life LeMarque’s book: “Crystal Clear: The Inspiring Story of How an Olympic Athlete Lost His Legs Due to Crystal Meth and Found a Better Life,” which would have been a spoiler of a title for a movie, so we’re glad the producers went with 6 Below instead, even though they never say that the temperature is “6 below.”

In the film, while stranded, LeMarque has to brave the elements, wolves, drug withdrawal, hunger, and dehydration.  While he is going through this hellish experience, he goes through deep reflection about his life, his parental upbringing, his arrogance, and his self-destructive drug abuse.  While he is lost in the High Sierras, his mother (the never aging Mira Sorvino) who refuses to give up on him is tirelessly trying to get him rescued.  She doesn’t get much to do in the present day besides look worried, but in LeMarque’s flashbacks, you get to see her as a loving mother, who not only has faith in her son, but also has to deal with her ultimate sports dad husband, who is trying to turn the young LeMarque into an Olympic athlete is an abusive rage full sports dad.

It’s not that the film is “boring,” it’s just that for much of the time, it’s Harnett just walking through the snow, occasionally talking to himself, and then going through much more interesting flashbacks.  The film might have been served better even making the flashbacks the focal point of the story instead of the time that is spent on the mountain.  The notion of a tortured kid, who was raised from greatness to be the best hockey player by a driven father, who then believes his own hype to the point of becoming drug addicted when he cannot fulfill his father’s wishes (after his father walks out on him at an early age).  While in the film he’s addicted to Crystal Meth, Harnett plays him as a functioning addict, and not one that his mother should be extremely worried about.  It’s more like his addiction is just a “bad habit” instead of the destructive illness that we know many opioids are in real life.  The film seems to wrap up rather quickly and then becomes a tonally different movie complete with “heroic” music and a cookie cutter ending of hope and redemption.  While the book focuses on faith as a means to survive, the film seems to ditch most of that and have LeMarque focus on his sheer will to survive.

The film does have its moments of greatness though.  Because most of 6 Below is in the mountains of Utah during the day, we get some gorgeous scenery shots.  It’s surprising that director Scott Waugh (who’re previous films included Act of Valor and Need For Speed) was able to pull off such breathtaking shots.  Thanks to cinematographer Michael Svitak, we get to see the beauty and the terror of the High Sierras.  The makeup effects are also well done, as Harnett’s LeMarque is forced to ingest rotting flesh from his frostbitten feet to survive.  As he’s savoring his disgusting snacks, it’s very well done with the right amount of gore that doesn’t completely revolt the audience, but they definitely aren’t comfortable with it.

Although 6 Below is a quick 96 minutes, because of plenty of nonaction, it feels slow and uneventful.  If you didn’t know that it was a true story, which it painstakingly does at the end (where you get to meet the real LeMarque and get a summary of his post-mountain activities as a motivational speaker), you would think it’s your standard cookie-cutter Disney-inspired feel-good film.