*** stars out of five
It’s June 1979 and Corporal Rudy Spruance (Jason Biggs) is dumped off at a remote military base, Qangattarsa, in Greenland. He was scheduled to land in Hawaii but finds himself, instead, with a bunch of misfit soilders who insist on calling him “Martin Pederson” – the base’s new information officer. Talk about clerical errors. With little chance of escape in the frozen Artic, Rudy has to deal with the insane Colonel Woolwrap (Jeremy Northam). To make things a little more complicated, Rudy meets the Sergeant, the beautiful Irene (Natascha McElhone) who just happens to be Woolwrap’s girlfriend. As Rudy pursues his romantic interest, he discovers Woolwrap’s dark secret, a hospital ward. It is here at “the wing” where he gets acquainted with Guy X (Michael Ironside) and discovers the real horrors of the Colonel’s insanity.
This movie is a mish mash of comedy, romance, mistaken identity and tragedy. With its mediocre plot and script this bizarre story surprisingly kept my interest right up to the bitter end. I admit I was intrigued by the psychosis of the Colonel and the misfit soilders. And the mystery behind the mutilated Guy X and what’s left of the other Vietnam veterans in the infirmary was absorbing. Basically, I enjoyed this dark comedy. One could even say it is a thriller but it doesn’t quite reach those expectations. Instead, it left me with a feeling of emotional detachment – perhaps this was the point of the whole story.
The movie’s saving grace is definitely the cast. Jason Bigg’s performance is brilliant and shows his maturity in being able to tackle a grownup role. He has charm and can certainly hold his own. As for the romantic relationship between Biggs and McElhone – could have been more sizzling. Michael Ironside is eerily intriguing and intense in his character of the physically hideous and puzzling Guy X. But my fav is Northam’s persuasive performance of the crazed and corrupt leader utilizing his powers in underhanded ways.
This film is based on the novel No One Thinks of Greenland by John Griesemer which was inspired by the story of the secret American hospital where fatally injured soldiers from the Korean War, officially billed as missing in action, were sent to die. Saul Metzstein filmed Guy X in Iceland and hence the movie’s scenery is beautifully remote, rugged and awesome. Add the cold, snowy weather and one has the main ingredients for the film’s ambience of loneliness and isolation. Of course, let’s not forget the puffin which makes its appearance in a few scenes, even as a not-so-tasty main entrée.