Infinite Storm, 2022.
Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska.
Starring Naomi Watts, Billy Howle, Coco Sumner, Denis O’Hare, Parker Sawyers, Eliot Sumner, and Joshua Rollins.
When a climber gets caught in a blizzard, she encounters a stranded stranger and must get them both down the mountain before nightfall.
Two lives were changed forever following the supposedly actual events (heavily exaggerated here to the point of silliness and boredom) depicted in Infinite Storm. The fundamental problem here is that it’s not until the final 10 minutes that director revered Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska (using a script from Joshua Rollins) attempts to shed some light on who these people are, what their problems are, and how their life-and-death situation might have just given them a new lease on life.
That’s also not to say ambiguity is a bad thing, but in this case, the lack of information sets at least one of these characters up for the most part as an idiot, which is a death sentence when a story requires empathy for people freezing to death on a mountain.
Infinite Storm is based on the life of Pam Bales (played here by Naomi Watts, continuing to star in one misguided project after another in this phase of her otherwise exceptional career), a seasoned mountain hiker. There are reports of snowstorms and bitter cold, but it’s not going to stop her from hiking up the nearby mountain to do some rumination, meditation, and venting to reflect on some loss of her life. She says it’s cheaper than therapy, and no one talks back. One would think that if there were ever a day to sit one of the sessions out, this would be that day.
Admittedly, Pam does acknowledge that if the conditions become too harsh, there is a trail that will take her safely down to the bottom. This is still reckless behavior, but that is something comforting to note. It’s also not long into the day when the time to turn around comes, although Pam simultaneously hears shouting off into the distance. After a few moments of tracking footprints (with some peaks inside Pam’s thermal vision for immersion and cinematic flair), she comes across a near-frozen man incapable of speaking or doing much of anything. More concerning is that he is dressed on top of this mountain on this November day, more prepared for a day on the beach, which perhaps implies that this near-death experience is no accident.
It becomes crystal clear that Pam is a nurse and rescue team member (although she appears to be on sabbatical for the duration of her grieving) that knows how to warm up this man and assist him downhill. Since the body is unable to speak, she declares his name to be John (Billy Howle) and gingerly brings him to his feet to start their perilous journey back to the parking lot, which is where the Wi-Fi signal will return.
Throughout, there are time skips blasting through dangerous moments (at one point, John falls into a river the second after being told not to fall in, which is either unintentionally hilarious or darker implication that maybe he doesn’t want to be rescued) and painful sights of frostbite. The weather conditions also let up in severity, which in conjunction with John warming up, allows him to communicate, although there aren’t any interesting conversations. In between all that are corny flashbacks of time enjoying happier days with her two daughters, giving us a clue as to why she is depressed.
Perhaps the complete disinterest with characterization might be forgivable if Infinite Storm successfully worked as a survival thriller, but there’s not much excitement. Primarily, the story is concerned with jumping forward in time and taking away suspense, as it becomes clear they are probably going to make it out of this okay. On a physical level, the performances here are fine and accompanied by some decent makeup and visual effects, but the human story is sacrificed to fabricate a larger-than-life version of the rescue tale. Across the many hours, they spend together, Pam never once asks the man his real name.
The film is far more tolerable and watchable whenever Pam and John are on screen together, but when the former is alone, the presentation dips into an overly sentimental shlock that features Naomi Watts constantly talking to herself. Sometimes, it’s to sell more emotional pain, and other times, it just comes across like the filmmakers assuming that the audience is too dumb to understand what Pam is doing on the mountain and that she needs to explain her actions in the field.
It’s another forced, sappy performance from Watts, although at least Infinite Storm has a bit more going on visually and doesn’t see her racing down the mountain because her son might be a school shooter similar to that recently released trash The Desperate Hour. Naomi Watts is undoubtedly in a storm all right, and it is one I hope her career finds its way out of.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com