Smilla's Sense of Snow
1997
When her 6-year-old neighbor falls from a roof, Smilla Jasperson (Julia Ormond) suspects the boy's death was no accident. She starts investigating and discovers that the boy's father died on a secret expedition while working for a mining company. With the help of a mysterious neighbor known as the Mechanic (Gabriel Byrne), Smilla defies local authorities and begins a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse to uncover the truth.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

I have always wondered what a science fiction film would be like if it were planted firmly in reality, with a hero who is self-centered and has a 9-to-5 job and doesn't enjoy risking her life to unravel a supernatural mystery. Now I have the answer: When the film is good and the actress is great, it works. This film belongs to Julia Ormond, who chisels her compassionless character out of pure ice and makes us sympathize with her because of her integrity. The film isn't always convincing around her, especially when it depends on every ancient cliché in screenwriting school – Gabriel Byrne can't tell what pay phone she's calling from until he hears a foghorn? I wonder if she'll get in trouble at the harbor and he'll arrive just in time to rescue her! – but Ormond and the rest of the cast use sheer willpower to forge through the material, and they are the true rewards here. Even if it wasn't about a cold-hearted Copenhagen geologist investigating the murder of a deaf Inuit boy who had a connection to an extraterrestrial meteor that crashed in Greenland in 1852 and might cause or solve any number of global crises, I'd still say this is one of the most unique and highly memorable films you could possibly treat yourself by renting. Give it a try.

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