A miracle might have happened for Eric LeMarque on the mountain, as the subtitle of “6 Below” claims, but none happens on the screen for viewers of Scott Waugh’s sincere but flatfooted retelling of his survival story. The truth was no doubt uplifting; the cinematic fictionalization turns it into rather a bore.
Josh Hartnett stars as LeMarque, a hockey player who’s become a drug addict and is facing jail time after a car accident under the influence. Given tough love by his anxious mother (Mira Sorvino), he repairs to an isolated cabin in the Sierra Nevadas to skateboard down the snow-covered peaks. Unfortunately he’s unaware of an approaching blizzard, which compels authorities to close the area down and leaves him stranded and alone in the wild.
Over the course of eight days he struggles to survive, dealing with a ravenous wolf and a near-drowning when he steps atop some fragile ice (during which he’s more concerned with keeping hold of his cache of drugs that the possibility of drowning). Battling withdrawal symptoms and the frigid temperatures, he has flashbacks to the abuse his father (Jason Cottle) heaped on him as a child as he strove to be the best on the rink, and to his hockey career, when he selfishly tried to show off to his team’s detriment.
Harnett suffers prodigiously through the ordeal, and one has to presume that it was an arduous shoot for him and the crew. He doesn’t, however, manage to invest LeMarque with much personality beyond a generalized surliness that is gradually tempered as he struggles to reach a plateau from which he might be seen from rescue planes. Sorvino reenters the scene to press authorities to undertake the effort to find her son and to continue it even after so much time has passed that searchers abandon much hope that he might still be alive. Nobody else in the cast is really consequential, though the wolf snarls convincingly.
There are moments when cinematographer Michael Svitak catches a striking image in the snow-covered terrain, with the stars glistening in the sky above. But Waugh, acting as co-editor as well as director, never finds a way to energize what is essentially a single-note story, and Hartnett doesn’t bring enough variety to his role to elevate the outcome. “6 Below” doesn’t rise high enough to merit much attention, however tall the mountain peaks might be; even LeMarque’s appearance at the close, encouraging a group of childish to act unselfishly, doesn’t appreciably raise the bar.