Joel Kinnaman is going to be a big star, plain and simple. He has the look; he definitely has the talent to play both a hero and a villain and everything in between. I know that some people are saying that he is already in the biggest movie to ever open in August with Suicide Squad but he was largely squandered in that role, not really showcasing the versatility of the actor. I first got to know him as Detective Stephen Holder in the AMC and later Netflix television series The Killing, a brooding murder mystery drama that captivated me for three seasons. Unfortunately, the first time out for him as a leading man in a North American film was the remake of Robocop, an ill-advised and totally watered down experiment in bland filmmaking but in his home country of Sweden, he’s a big star who led a trilogy called Easy Money, one that also brought America Safe House director Daniel Espinoza, a film Kinnaman had a brief role in.
Edge Of Winter is a new Canadian film that brings Kinnaman north again, into Canada, where he shot all three seasons of The Killing, only this time trading in the moody atmosphere of the lower mainland of British Columbia for the snowy landscape of Sudbury, Ontario. It’s a bit of a DC Comics and Marvel collaboration as Kinnaman, who played Rick Flagg in the before mentioned Suicide Squad, stars alongside young Tom Holland, who is Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man in Civil War and the upcoming Homecoming. Proving himself beyond what we’ve seen him in so far, including the lackluster Ron Howard film In The Heart Of The Sea, Holland and Kinnaman build the bubbling intensity in this debut film from director and writer Rob Connolly.
Kinnaman plays Elliot Baker, a man who lives alone and seems at the end of his rope financially. Out of work and out of options, the film opens with a frazzled phone call he’s having, seemingly trying to get his employment back, which he was either laid off from or was deemed too difficult to work with, this isn’t clear. As you look over his modest and tiny apartment, it looks very stark and empty with a lack of real lived-in character to it. It’s obvious that Elliot is an outdoorsy type but he gives off the vibe of being a real reclusive loner otherwise. He will have to fake a happy face and forge some bonding time with his two sons, even if his current situation lingers in the back of his mind.
The two kids, fifteen-year-old Bradley (Holland) and twelve-year-old Caleb (Percy Hynes White), are not too happy to be dumped off at their father’s house. They hardly know him, other than remembering his explosively unpredictable temper. Dropped off by their mother (Twilight’s Rachelle Lefevre) and her new husband so they can go on an adults only vacation, the interaction between father and sons is painfully awkward and borderline contentious. Being a curious kid, Caleb finds a rifle under Elliot’s bed only to be immediately caught by their father, causing him to fly into a bit of a rage. Once he softens a bit, he takes the boys out for an uncomfortable shooting lesson where he gets the idea to bring them on a nature excursion, to show off a bit. The three eventually find themselves stranded and Elliot starts to exhibit more and more angry and erratic behavior until a revelation from the boys pushes him over the edge and the two kids find themselves in a possibly deadly situation.
Joel Kinnaman’s intensity makes this film a very interesting and unpredictable watch, especially just pertaining to Elliot’s character. There are so many questions about where this severely damaged character came from. We know he has anger issues and he is nursing an arm in a cast that may have had something to do with his recent loss of employment but it seems that his biggest and most damaging problem is his inability to process things correctly and rationally. His immediate urge to fly off the handle puts him instantly at odds with his oldest son and his gruff approach, and definitely the previously mentioned shooting scene where Caleb accidentally shoots a rabbit, puts a kind of fear into the youngest. There isn’t really any sympathy for this character as he really is the master of his own domain.
Rob Connolly does a good job shooting the snowy and potentially deadly landscape all around our characters. We know the elements they face, especially if you’re Canadian, and we know certain missteps and decisions can make their situation go from bad to worse. The irony of Elliot being such an outdoorsman adds to that “off his game” mentality that the character needs but this is all conveyed by our actors on screen. I felt the direction of this film brought nothing fully original to the story as you can kind of pinpoint the trajectory of this story as soon as the main plot points present themselves. It quickly falls into an escape from the catalyst of danger, an ‘us versus him’ sort of story, which we’ve seen elements of before, even this year in a Canadian film with the Jamie Bamber film Numb.
As much as I wanted a little bit more of a diverting story from Edge Of Winter, this doesn’t mean that the film is bad, just a bit middle of the road. Performances are what ultimately makes this film work and will be what you are talking about afterward. Will the film stick in your mind beyond that? Probably not, but it may dredge up bad camping memories or deep-seated daddy issues, who knows? I think Rob Connolly makes a nice first step into helming feature films and as far as Edge Of Winter goes, it is a dark tale about blood not being the be all and end all when it comes to holding a bond, just don’t expect anything thought provoking. I give this one a three out of five.