Iceman (1984)

Rating: B-

Dir: Fred Schepisi
Star: Timothy Hutton, John Lone, Lindsay Crouse, Josef Sommer

This is an odd little film, one it’s hard to see getting made today. A frozen Neanderthal (Lone, unrecognisable) is discovered in the Arctic and thawed back to life. Some, such as anthropologist, Shephard (Hutton) want to study him alive; others would prefer him thinly sliced. It’s mostly about the bond that can still form between men, despite the 40,000 year age difference, though it is also careful to set up the science surrounding the resurrection, rather than, say, using some miracle elixir. Given this, Shephard suddenly realising the iceman has mistaken a helicopter for a chariot to take him to the afterlife comes as a bit of a leap, especially since communication between them is largely limited to grunts. Oh, and in one amusing scene, a Neil Young song.

Much credit to John Lone for a touching performance underneath several pounds of make-up, and with no meaningful dialogue. Indeed, the best sequence is his alone, where he escapes from the atrium where he’s been kept for observation, and encounters modern life in all its terrors, from photocopiers to glass doors. Accompanied by camerawork which captures the fear and intrigue he’s experiencing, it’s a masterpiece of wordless exposition, and left me wondering how I’d react to an abduction by people from the future, or aliens. If I show as much grace and humanity, I’ll be happy. Chewy, thoughtful science-fiction, from a long ago era (1984, to be precise) when the genre meant more than earth-threatening cataclysm.