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"SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW"
(1997) (Julia Ormond, Gabriel Byrne) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Mild Moderate Mild Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None Mild None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Mild Mild Minor Minor Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Suspense: A woman investigates the mysterious death of a six-year-old neighbor boy.
PLOT:
Smilla Jaspersen (JULIA ORMOND) is an unemployed native Greenlander who lives in Copenhagen off the wealth of her father, Moritz Jaspersen (ROBERT LOGGIA). One day she returns home to find the body of Isaiah (CLIPPER MIANO), a six-year-old neighbor boy, lying dead in the snow. The police report that he accidentally fell from the roof, but Smilla thinks otherwise, knowing that the boy was afraid of heights. She and another neighbor, "The Mechanic" (GABRIEL BYRNE), begin their own investigation and discover that Tork Hviid (RICHARD HARRIS) may be involved. He's the CEO of Greenland Mining, a company that's looking for an energy producing meteorite, and as Smilla nears finding the truth, her discoveries lead her closer to deadly trouble.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Unless they're fans of any of the cast or are familiar with the novel from which this is based, it's doubtful.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language, some violence and a sex scene.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JULIA ORMOND plays a woman with a mean and belligerent attitude toward others and apparently toward life in general.
  • GABRIEL BYRNE plays a mysterious neighbor who may or may not be involved with the corrupt mining company.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    While the film tries very hard to be a moody, mysterious thriller, its plot implausibilities and inconsistencies undermine the effort. It appears that much of the details and structure that were probably in the novel and are desperately needed here to explain character motivation, and sudden scene and character appearances, are missing. We don't know why Smilla acts the way she does or why she lives in a small, cramped apartment when she states that she hates such places. We also don't know why she has such a bad attitude or why she suddenly sleeps with her neighbor that she barely knows. Julia Ormond is such a naturally radiant beauty that playing her against type as a scowling, angry woman seems intriguing at first. After a while, though, you tire of her antics and bad attitude. I suppose the mystery surrounding her and the general story is supposed to entice us, but instead it only distances us from the story. The big mystery of the plot is too easy to figure out and the fact that it has a cheesy "B" movie sci-fi twist only lessens the quality of the film. Other events are too contrived and come off as unbelievable. The fact that Smilla is an expert on snow hence the title is ridiculous. We're supposed to believe that she knows how footprints land in the snow based on different running or walking conditions while the local detectives (who live in the snowy environment) don't? Other scenes, such as when Smilla happens to find the leading audio expert in Denmark, and the fact that he can decipher by ear what's on a garbled tape, is so bad it's nearly laughable. Many scenes seem forced while others appear to be abridged or missing altogether. Thus the flow of the movie jumps and skips its way toward the ending, ruining any momentum it was building. While this film seemingly had good intentions, it takes what could have been a decent plot and jumbles it into a convoluted, dark mess. We give this one just a 3 out of 10.
    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The worst of the profanity is 11 "f" words and sexually related material is limited to a brief, relatively tame, encounter, a bare breast and butt, and a few lines of dialogue. Several people are killed toward the end of the movie and Julia Ormond's character is rather mean and nasty toward others. While it's doubtful any kids will want to see this film, you should check out the scene listings if by chance you and/or they want to see it.

    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Isaiah's mother drinks, and later we learn that she's an alcoholic.
  • Smilla asks "the mechanic" after he's offered her a drink, "What do you think, we're going to get drunk and f*ck?"
  • Other people in Isaiah's apartment drink beer.
  • At dinner, "the mechanic" drinks wine.
  • Several people drink wine in a restaurant, including Smilla's father and his girlfriend.
  • Smilla's father pours himself a late night drink (brandy or a dessert wine).
  • People are seen drinking in a bar.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • There is a little bit of blood on the snow around Isaiah's body.
  • We see Isaiah's body and those of two other men on autopsy tables, but nothing graphic is seen.
  • Smilla finds an audio technician dead and tied to his chair. When she removes his headphones, blood pours from his ears.
  • A man has a knife in his gut and the wound is rather bloody.
  • Blood covers the icy wall behind a man who's been shot.
  • Tork's arm is bloody after he's been struck with a pick ax.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Smilla has a rather straightforward, "no holds barred" approach to her comments that comes across as mean and crass. She doesn't get along with anyone, mainly because of her attitude.
  • All of those who obstruct Smilla's investigation have both.
  • Tork and his company put financial concerns ahead of worker safety and the lives of others.
  • Smilla and her father's girlfriend/wife don't get along and trade inflammatory remarks back and forth at each other.
  • Smilla discovers (in flashback) that Isaiah is deaf due to ear infections. She confronts his mother stating that if she had taken him to the doctor, he wouldn't have gone deaf.
  • Smilla pickpockets a D.A. worker's wallet.
  • Smilla feeds a tranquilizer-laced piece of meat to a guard dog, scales the fence surrounding Greenland Mining, breaks in, and steals some official files.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • An Inuit seal hunter tries to outrun a glacial tidal wave spawned by a meteorite strike.
  • Smilla hears things while rifling through Greenland Mining files at night. Eventually a person approaches through the shadows and she hides, hoping that she won't be discovered.
  • Explosions rack the boat that Smilla's on and it begins to sink with her in it. She barely manages to get out as water fills the cabin.
  • Some scenes listed under "Violence" may be suspenseful to some viewers.
  • Smilla is nearly discovered in two back to back scenes, one where she's hiding in a ship's dumb waiter, the other where she's hiding in a shower.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Knife: Seen sticking out of a man's gut (the actual stabbing isn't seen).
  • Guns: Used to threaten or kill people near the end of the movie. See "Violence" for details.
  • Explosives: Used to blow up a boat and later an arctic cave.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Screw you," "Freak," and "Bastard."
  • Smilla pickpockets a D.A. worker's wallet.
  • Smilla feeds a tranquilizer-laced piece of meat to a guard dog, scales the fence surrounding Greenland Mining, breaks in, and steals some official files.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There is a mild amount of suspenseful music throughout the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 11 "f" words (4 used sexually), 4 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals ("pr*ck"), 1 slang term for breasts ("tits"), 3 hells, 1 "ass" word, 1 damn, and 1 use each of "My God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • After "the mechanic" offers Smilla a drink, she asks him, "What do you think, we're going to get drunk and f*ck?"
  • We briefly see the bare breast of a native Inuit woman as she prepares to breast feed her rather old child.
  • After Smilla says that she doesn't celebrate Christmas, Moritz's girlfriend asks what she celebrates. Smilla answers, among other things, "...premature ejaculators..."
  • Smilla and "the mechanic" make out. She's on top of him and part of her bare butt is seen, but nothing happens other than passionate kissing. It is implied, however, that they do have sex.
  • A man who's helping Smilla twice asks her, "How about a quick f*ck?"
  • SMOKING
  • A doctor smokes a cigar.
  • People in Isaiah's apartment smoke cigarettes.
  • A friend of "the mechanic" smokes.
  • A man on a freighter ship smokes in several scenes.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Isaiah's mother is upset over her son's death, and a brief funeral scene is observed.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • Why Smilla has such a bad attitude and is mean to so many people.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Smilla thinks, and later discovers to be true, that Isaiah was chased off the roof from which he fell to his death.
  • Smilla pushes over a metal shelving unit on top of a man sneaking up on her and then hits the man.
  • Several D.A. men try to take Smilla from her apartment. "The mechanic" enters and pushes one of them against the wall.
  • Smilla returns to her apartment to find that it has been ransacked.
  • A Greenland Mining man smack's Isaiah's mother.
  • Smilla finds an audio technician dead and tied to his chair. When she removes his headphones, blood pours from his ears.
  • Explosions rock the boat that Smilla's on and it begins to sink with her in it.
  • Smilla grabs her father's girlfriend by the crotch and throat and chokes the woman after she threatens to call the police on Smilla.
  • Two men put a large bag over Smilla's head and try to throw her over a high railing. She stabs one of them in the neck with a screwdriver and escapes.
  • Smilla finds a man, who was helping her, with a knife in his gut. He dies from the wound.
  • A man holds a gun to Smilla's head, and later takes her away to shoot her. Instead he is shot by another man.
  • That man tries to shoot Tork who instead spins around and shoots the man dead with a rifle. Tork then prepares to shoot Smilla, but "the mechanic" throws a pick ax into his arm.
  • "The mechanic" then fights with another man (punches thrown).
  • Two men, in two different scenes, drown in the frigid arctic water.
  • "The mechanic" sets explosives that blow up an arctic cave.



  • Reviewed March 10, 1997

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