I never liked downhill skiing. Two reasons contributed to this mindset: 1) 80s flicks depicted most skiers as vapid. self-absorbed pricks tormenting another equally annoying group of skiers; 2) the one time my elementary school took us all on a ski trip, I witnessed a classmate breaking his leg. I wouldn't say I was traumatized, but give a timid kid an avenue by which to avoid an activity he wasn't keen on in the first place and he's going to take it.
All that being said, the place I went skiing as a kid was no near as ominous as the way the B.C. Rockies are depicted in this movie. They're practically a character from the get-go, and the ski lift our trio of twenty-somethings use to head up the hill is downright sinister--like a set piece from the Final Destination franchise.
The premise is pretty simple and for ninety minutes or so it's milked for all it's worth and then some. Take three friends and strand them halfway up a mountain on a rickety ski lift. That might not be so bad, but consider the idea that no one knows they're up there and no one is likely to show up for days to reopen the hill. Yikes. Sure, the way in which they wind up in their situation is preposterous on an unparalleled level, but the convoluted steps are all laid out to let the audience at least shrug and agree to roll with it. If you ever saw Open Water, it's remarkably similar, only place the characters in the mountains rather than the ocean.
So it's cold as hell and getting colder, there's a blizzard brewing, no food or water, and panic is gradually setting in as the reality of their situation becomes more clear.
There's a point midway through the movie though that seems like a curve ball, and it really changes the tone of the movie, and I'm not so sure it's in a good way. I don't want to spoil it, but if you've seen the movie already then you probably know exactly what I'm talking about. The first half of the film seems to rely completely on the performances of the actors as the three characters are forced to contend with their previously unspoken tensions with one another. Then, the second half of the movie seems to switch focus altogether when an unexpected threat to their lives is introduced--a more immediate threat than simply freezing to death over the course of several days. I suppose this is done because the target audience might have been bored by a pure character driven film. It doesn't ruin the movie though, I'll say that, but it just takes it in a direction that seemed a bit tacked on for the sake of a more visceral scare.
The performances are good and the dread of the situation comes through with every scene. The camera work and sound are especially good, and there are a couple of real cringe-worthy scenes that really had my blood curdling. If you don't like skiing, you'll like it even less after this movie is through with you.