“Infinite Storm,” the gripping true-life tale of New Hampshire nurse and mountaineer Pam Bales (Naomi Watts), is a rollercoaster of breathtaking moments. The story revolves around Pam’s rescue of a stranded and unprepared hiker (Billy Howle) during a brutal blizzard in the White Mountains.
For nearly half of this brilliantly shot and skillfully executed film. We are thrust into the heart of one woman’s courageous mission as a member of a local search-and-rescue team, facing formidable challenges.
Watts, known for her remarkable performances in survival stories like “The Impossible” (2012) and “Penguin Bloom” (2020), delivers a gritty and determined portrayal.
Bales and John, as the young man is known (his real name remains a mystery), endure countless trials while attempting to escape the treacherous Mount Washington in the Slovenian Alps (standing in for New Hampshire). Their struggle against illness and injury adds to the intensity of the narrative.
One of the film’s intriguing aspects, and also a minor drawback, is that we learn very little about Bales and John throughout most of the story. While we get some hints about Bales through casual conversations and heartwarming flashbacks featuring her two daughters, the characters could have been more deeply explored.
Investing in Bales as a fully fleshed-out character sometimes feels automatic rather than authentic due to the limited introduction.
Nonetheless, the relentless obstacles she faces, such as tumbling into a deadly ravine twice. Keep us engrossed, pushing biographical details into the background. However, a more comprehensive character development could have enhanced the emotional connection.
John’s enigmatic nature and hypothermia-induced reluctance for help sometimes make him feel more like a prop than a fully developed character.
It’s only in a cathartic and poignant scene towards the film’s conclusion. He and Bales open up to each other and the audience, but even then, their revelations seem somewhat condensed.
The scriptwriter, Joshua Rollins, appears to have adopted a minimalist approach. Inspired by Ty Gagne’s essay, “Footprints in the Snow Lead to an Emotional Rescue.”
While the sparse dialogue may occasionally sound flat, the film’s action sequences come to life vividly under the direction of Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska and co-director Michal Englert. They capture the blinding snowfall and fierce gale winds with visceral intensity.
Watts and Howle’s emotionally charged performances make “Infinite Storm” a daring and memorable portrayal of trauma, compassion, and resilience.
The film’s title comes from a quote by environmental philosopher John Muir, who once wrote, “The whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” However, Muir likely never had to endure a harsh day on Mount Washington.