Cinema Review: Sugar Mountain | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023  

Sugar Mountain

Studio: Screen Media Films
Directed by Richard Gray

Dec 09, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Miles and Liam West are struggling to keep their late mother’s Alaska boat tour company alive. It has been three years since she passed, and in that time, they’ve fallen behind on every bill and had their boat repossessed. They need cash, a lot of it, and they need it fast. Thus, they do what so many people down on their luck and in a desperate situation do: they concoct a scheme. Aided by Miles’ girlfriend, Lauren (the love of Liam’s life), they pretend Miles gets lost in the Alaskan wilderness with the hopes of selling his remarkable survival story for a small fortune upon his “miraculous” return ten days later. Naturally, not all goes according to plan, and the more the police, media, and townspeople look into on Miles’ disappearance, the deeper and more complex the deceptions become.

Sure – staging a disappearance with the hopes of a windfall payout is a dumb plan, but it makes for some surprisingly entertaining viewing. Director Richard Gray keeps the film moving quickly, punctuated by often beautiful cinematography from John Garrett, and Abe Pogos’ and Catherine Hill’s story is intricately layered with reveal upon reveal. (There’s one larger twist toward the end that’s far from the surprise the filmmakers wish it to be, but as a whole, the revelations work quite well.) The pacing and plot are equally matched by the casting. With Drew Roy (Miles) “lost” in the woods for much of the picture, it falls on Shane Coffey as Liam to carry the film, and he does so impressively. Known best for scattered appearances across various television series (and perhaps most recognizable as Holden Strauss from Pretty Little Liars), Coffey plays Liam with the charisma and inner turmoil of a much more seasoned on-screen talent. Haley Webb is equally captivating as Lauren, the duplicitous girl next door who is far less innocent than she at first appears. Jason Momoa (soon to be Aquaman) and Cary Elwes have supporting roles, but the film really belongs to the trio.

Sugar Mountain isn’t flawless, and it requires some suspension of disbelief on behalf of its viewers. (Seriously, just accept now that staging a struggle for wilderness survival is a viable, maybe even reliable, way to make some money depending on where you live.) But, if you’re willing to go along for the ride, it’s an unexpectedly entertaining, gratifying 106-minute adventure.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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