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Is The Ice Road Based On A True Story?

When you combine an angry Liam Neeson and a movie premise based on one of the most popular History Channel shows, you're bound to attract some interest from moviegoers.

Neeson's new film, "Ice Road," is now streaming on Netflix, and centers around 26 trapped Canadian diamond miners who are caved in after a methane explosion trapped them. In order to save the miners, rescuers need to use a 30-ton gas wellhead, but it's too heavy to travel by air so it must be driven by truck. Enter tough North Dakota Truck driver Mike McCann (Liam Neeson). Mike is hired by trucking operator Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne) to travel across 300 miles of ice to help save the miners. Along the way Mike must not only be wary of the possibility of cracking ice, but of the people joining him on the mission, who might not have the same noble intent as Mike. 

So, is "The Ice Road" based on a true story, or is it entirely fictional?

The Ice Road is fictional, but some of its events mirror real life

The particular story of "The Ice Road" is fictional, but there are aspects of the film which are true to life. 

For instance, while the plot and characters are completely made up, there is most definitely a very real ice road like the one show in the film, and it is in Canada's Northwest Territories. According to Only Natural Diamonds, Canada's ice road is called the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road (TCWR) and it is "open briefly every year (typically in February or March) and is used to re-supply operating diamond sites." 

How safe is this road? An amphibious Swedish vehicle — capable of flotation as well as driving — tests the thickness of the ice, using a sonar device, and the road does not open to other vehicles until it has reached a minimum thickness of 29 inches. The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road's Director of Operations, Ron Near, calls it "probably the safest road in North America," according to Canadian Mining Journal. However, at the road's weakest points, "the trucks run at less than full capacity" because "topping them up would raise the risk of plunging through the surface of one of the dozens of lakes the road traverses" (via Reuters).

This particular road, though, was not the only thing that influenced the movie.

The Ice Road had other inspirations, as well

What else inspired the Netflix film? Writer-director Jonathan Hensleigh (who previously directed the 2004 version of "The Punisher") told Variety that "The Wages of Fear," the 1953 French film based on the novel "The Salary of Fear" was one inspiration. The director also told Below The Line that when proposing the film, he'd told producers Code Entertainment that, "If I can do a film that's inspired by Wages of Fear, where instead of this mountainous foreboding Andes region — they're transporting TNT over in trucks ... if I could do that, I'll write a script on spec, I'll develop it, I'll go the whole way."

Perfectly enough, Liam Neeson himself prepared himself for the role by watching TV and by going on the actual roads. Neeson told ComingSoon.net, "prep-wise, I watched just a couple of the Ice Road Truckers, those reality TV shows, and just talking to a couple of truckers. One guy in particular, who took me out in the roads of Winnipeg, just let me get the feel of the truck. He was driving." Neeson added that he was "amazed at the size of these trucks and their sensitivity, gear changing, when to apply the brake, how gently to apply the brake, all that sort of stuff. They're monsters."