This intellectual thriller, adapted from Peter Høeg's best-seller, is dominated by Ormond's frosty heroine, half-American, half-Greenlander, who tries tenaciously to unravel the mysterious death of six-year-old Isaiah, son of an alcoholic Greenlander neighbour. Helped only by another neighbour, the enigmatic Engineer (Byrne), Smilla pursues cryptic clues and interrogates frightened witnesses. Could there be a link between Isaiah's rooftop fall and the death of the boy's father some years earlier in a hushed-up mining accident? The ensuing quest takes Smilla from Copenhagen to Greenland, where her Inuit skills come into their own. The strength of the novel lay chiefly in the Copenhagen scenes, where an interplay of skilfully drawn characters established a narrative enigma and an authentic sense of pinched, alienated lives. The same is true of the film, by Høeg's Danish compatriot Bille August: the first half benefits from the foursquare contributions of Redgrave, Broadbent and Wilkinson, but thereafter it ploughs like an ice-breaker on a suicide mission. Our involvement, however, melts once Smilla and the others board the rusting Russian ship 'Kronos' and set sail for the preposterous anti-climax.
Cast and crew