December 16, 2018

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Not-very-chilly thriller leaves audience cold

Characters immobilized by weak script, implausibility

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/3/2016 (1016 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The deep freeze of a Canadian winter, a remote location, untrustworthy companions, $4 million in gold coins: sounds like the promising premise for a thriller, even of the pulpy B-movie variety.

Unfortunately, despite its name, the British Columbia-shot Numb is decidedly unchilling. It squanders its possibilities on hackneyed clichés and worn-out tropes, without even trying to give them a winking sense of irony.

Will (Jamie Bamber) and his wife Dawn (Stefanie von Pfetten) are weeks away from foreclosure on their house. They have driven from Vancouver for Will to sign on as site manager at a remote northern construction site, but when they arrive, he’s told the project has fallen through.

On the way home, they pick up a pair of hitchhikers who are woefully underdressed for the chilly conditions. Cheryl (Marie Avgeropoulos) and Lee (Winnipegger Aleks Paunovic) are a brother and sister the film tries to peg as “mysterious” and therefore possibly malevolent, but they’re only mysterious because the script chooses to tell us nothing about them, other than the fact that Lee has been in jail. (Cue foreboding music... well, another film might have done that; this movie just lets the revelation sit there like a frozen dog turd.)

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/3/2016 (1016 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The deep freeze of a Canadian winter, a remote location, untrustworthy companions, $4 million in gold coins: sounds like the promising premise for a thriller, even of the pulpy B-movie variety.

Unfortunately, despite its name, the British Columbia-shot Numb is decidedly unchilling. It squanders its possibilities on hackneyed clichés and worn-out tropes, without even trying to give them a winking sense of irony.

Will (Jamie Bamber) and his wife Dawn (Stefanie von Pfetten) are weeks away from foreclosure on their house. They have driven from Vancouver for Will to sign on as site manager at a remote northern construction site, but when they arrive, he’s told the project has fallen through.

On the way home, they pick up a pair of hitchhikers who are woefully underdressed for the chilly conditions. Cheryl (Marie Avgeropoulos) and Lee (Winnipegger Aleks Paunovic) are a brother and sister the film tries to peg as "mysterious" and therefore possibly malevolent, but they’re only mysterious because the script chooses to tell us nothing about them, other than the fact that Lee has been in jail. (Cue foreboding music... well, another film might have done that; this movie just lets the revelation sit there like a frozen dog turd.)

Through an unlikely encounter with an old man who staggers onto the highway, the four travellers come into possession of GPS co-ordinates that might mark the spot where precious coins from a long-ago heist are buried.

Of course, the two couples decide to investigate, promising to split the spoils.

Setting out in the morning after a night at a motel, these unlikely companions make their way to the road closest to the GPS co-ordinates and start off, Will and Dawn looking like models from the J. Crew winter catalogue, Lee and Cheryl looking like actors out of central casting for "mysterious hitchhikers."

Not surprisingly, things do not go according to plan.

Numb was shot in and around Vernon, B.C., and the location is really the star of the movie, bringing it a much-needed sense of verisimilitude (though the cinematography is a bit washed out).

And to its credit, Numb does capture the desperation brought on by extreme cold and its harrowing effects (though it piles on by having know-it-all Will explain everything).

Will and Dawn have parkas, hats and mitts (though they rarely put their hoods up, possibly so we can better view the ravages of the cold on their pretty faces). Lee and Cheryl are bareheaded and gloveless with open-necked jackets, and one gets the same feeling one has watching too-cool-for-school junior high students waiting at the bus stop in -30 C weather — "You’re going to get frostbite and then you’ll learn your lesson!"

And they do. Get frostbite, that is, not learn their lesson. The film does not skimp on the gory detail; this is not a glamorous portrayal of winter survival. Skin peels, noses blacken, hands freeze into claws.

A scene where they dig for the coins is hard to watch, as much for the naked greed as for the sight of raw and reddened fingers scrabbling in the hard-packed snow.

It’s too bad Numb can’t decide if it’s a winter-survival movie or a buried-treasure movie. It’s not too bad at the former, but for latter to work, we’d need a better window into the characters’ motivations — and more importantly, we’d need to care. Dire circumstances and avarice can reveal people’s dark sides, but the lazy script ensures we don’t really know any facet of these people.

In the end, it’s the audience that’s numb, or more accurately, indifferent.

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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History

Updated on Sunday, March 6, 2016 at 2:41 PM CST: Incorrect review removed.

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