Brothers Miles (Drew Roy) and Liam West (Shane Coffey) are broke. The family boat and business Sugar Mountain Costal Charters that their mother kept going for 21 years they have seemingly destroyed in 3. They cannot pay their mooring fees, their insurance is behind due to 600K claim for detached fingers of a pianist making them desperate for money. They come up with a plan with the aid of their childhood friend Tracey Huxley (Melora Walters) who is also Miles girlfriend and Liam's lifelong crush to fake Miles' disappearance on Sugar Mountain then sell the story when he appears out of the wilderness several days later. Miles cites the story of the guy in Utah who fell into a crevasse and cut of his arm as an example of how survival stories can sell.
Miles is the one to get lost as no one would believe it if Liam went missing as he knows the mountain too well. The trio add in an extra twist to juice up the narrative and ward off the search efforts as they were beginning to obtain leads on Miles' whereabouts. The local sheriff Jim Huxley (Cary Elwes) who's Tracey's dad and not a fan of Miles begins to poke holes in the scheme while local heavy Joe Bright (Jason Momoa) puts on the pressure to recover a personal debt owed by Miles.
Alaska plays a major role in the film. It's the location of the action plus its environment,stark elements and isolated nature serves well as the backdrop of the film. The production uses many sweeping shots of the mountain and local waterways to set the tone of the piece. Director Richard Gray mixes in several shots where nature intersects with the main characters for memorable results. The most impactful being the sequence where Miles hikes into the woods passing a couple of moose standing no more than 200 yards away with a thin swatch of trees separating the actors and crew from the 1000 pound animals.
The common theme of the story is lying and withholding information. Every character except for Joe Bright the recent parolee is not what they appear. The indiscretion can be minor like a couple of local kids staling an iPad found during the search to larger ones like Sherriff Huxley's every present flask in his inside pocket feeding his daily craving of scotch.
The relative inexperience of the three lead actors allow them to sink into their roles along with the audience willing to go along because they do not have prior signature performances in mind. The novice leads are backed by veterans Cary Elwes and Jason Momoa who bring grit and toughness to their roles.
Sugar Mountain is a story driven by the harsh Alaskan landscape and nuances of day to day life in an isolated community. The small ensemble cast hit the right beat for the piece as the plot unfurls right up to the climactic moment. The viewer will think that they're on top of the storyline early only to be faced with performances that challenge type. It's a physical, emotional, earnest tale that's well worth a watch.
*** Out of 4.
Sugar Mountain | Richard Gray | USA | 2016 | 106 Minutes.
Tags; Alaska, Boat Tours, Family Business, Hoax, Debt, Insurance claim, Hike, Lost, Survival, Search, Diary, Secrets.