The survival film, where people are pitted against the forces of nature in an attempt to beat the odds and stay alive. With famous examples like Cast away and The Martian, there is an art and style that makes watching someone fight to survive and be victorious naturally compelling. There can also be something fascinating about a survival movie where we lose characters along the way or, in rare instances, everyone to the unforgiving cruelty of the elements. What makes the survival experiences worth watching is in the strong characters, good and bad, and making the audience care about these characters enough to want them to survive. Centigrade starts off on the wrong foot with its characters and doesn’t seem to regain its footing until its too late.
After pulling their car to the side of the road during a blizzard Naomi and Matt awaken to two horrifying realizations, that they fell asleep, and the freezing ice has trapped them in their car. The initial panic slowly begins to subside and gives way for logical plans. Naomi was on her way to a book signing, they’ll come looking for them after she doesn’t show up right? But as the hours turn into days they begin to wonder is help is coming, and if it is, how long is it going to take to arrive?
From the moment that Naomi and Matt wake up, they are fighting, and not in a panicked this is a terrifying situation fashion, instead, there is throwing blame. Immediately these are shown to be angry characters, resentful, to the point that they agree to no bicker but don’t show signs of resolution. The audience is trapped in a frozen car with two people, who we find out later are married, who feel like they hate each other up until a very forced moment in the story. There is no problem with having a marital drama in your survival film but when they begin so negative the climb to see them love each other just comes across as unbelievable.
The bigger problem with the characters starting off so angry is that this is our introduction to the characters we want to see make it out of this situation. Being dropped in with characters at odds with each other in this fashion doesn’t make for characters that we want to see make it out of this. There is a character arch in this film that could have been a happy couple finding themselves at the precipice of hating each other and coming back in a triumphant victory, but that’s not what Centigrade is.
What makes Centigrade stand out is the location, a barren wasteland of bitter cold and frozen tundra that has a couple trapped in a car at the center of it. The audience sees as the car degrades over their many days spent in it, from parts of the car being covered in soot from the candles they use for light, to the dashboard that has lines carved in it to count the days. In a film that is soaked in atmosphere and shot incredibly smart, it is completely left for dead when it comes to the script and the likeability of its characters.
5 out of 10