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The Ice Road Ending Explained: Who Lives And Who Dies On The Thrilling Frozen Adventure

Liam Neeson in The Ice Road

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains all the TWISTS and turns in Netflix’s The Ice Road. If you have yet to watch Liam Neeson drive an 18-wheeler on a road made of ice to save 26 miners, turn back now because there are no detours.

Over the course of the past decade-and-a-half, Liam Neeson has transformed himself from an actor with Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Tony nominations to one of the most unlikely on-screen badasses of the modern era. Following years of yelling out one-liners and kicking all kinds of ass in movies like Taken, The Grey, and Cold Pursuit, the Irish actor has said he’ll soon retire from the action genre. But before a possible return to his roots in the world of English romantic comedies, Neeson has given the world the action thriller: The Ice Road.

Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh (whose writing credits include Die Hard with a Vengeance, Con Air, and Armageddon) the 2021 action flick The Ice Road tells the story of a group of thick-skinned truckers who risk life and limb to save a group of trapped miners. From the beginning to the thrilling The Ice Road ending, we never take our foot off the pedal in this race against time and some nefarious parties. Below is a breakdown of every twist and turn and how things shake out for the truckers in The Ice Road.

Bradley Sawatzky and Matt McCoy in The Ice Road

What The Ice Road Is About

When an explosion at a mine in Manitoba, Canada leaves a group of 26 miners trapped deep in a mountain with only 30 hours of oxygen, it is up to a group of ice road truckers to deliver the the equipment that can cap a methane gas leak so the men can be blasted out to safety. With a short window of time and ice that is becoming thinner by the minute, the crew consisting of Mike McCann (Liam Neeson), Gurty McCann (Marcus Thomas), Tantoo (Amber Midthunder), Jim Goldenrod (Laurence Fishburne), and Tom Varnay (Benjamin Walker) set out for the frozen north. But this journey won’t be without surprises and trouble around every turn…

The struggle in this disaster movie becomes even more dire when the trapped miners and ice road truckers discover that local management with Katka, the corporation who owns the mine, doesn’t want to fix the situation but instead do everything to cover up their role in the accident, even if that means killing everyone involved.

The Ice Road cast

Who Lives And Who Dies By The End Of The Ice Road

In addition to introducing the audience to multiple dangerous and downright perilous situations, The Ice Road also includes a strong group of characters each with their own desires and motivations for the seemingly impossible operation at hand. But how do things shake out for the ice road truckers, the miners, and those dastardly Katka executives by the time the credits roll? Let’s find out.

Mike McCann, the undeniable hero of The Ice Road not only survives until the end of the thrilling adventure to see all 26 miners pulled from the mine, but he’s also there to get some justice of his own when he punches mine general manager George Sickle (Matt McCoy) for putting in motion a plan that killed people very close to him.

Gurty McCann, Mike’s brother who was left with a brain injury during his time in the Iraq War, is one of the members of the ice trucker crew who doesn’t make it to the end of the movie, but his death isn’t for nothing. When the only surviving truck (of three) is on the final stretch of its journey, Gurty stands between the heavy load and a gate to prevent the equipment from falling over the edge of a mountain.

Tantoo, who turns out to be the sister of one of the miners trapped in the mountain, is right there beside Mike when the last of the 26 men walks out of the cavern. There were a few close calls for Amber along the way, but her determination to save her brother helped her survive some gnarly injuries.

Tom Varnay, the Katka contractor masquerading as an insurance actuary who was actively sabotaging the entire operation, finally got his comeuppance in the final act of The Ice Road when his rig sinks to the bottom of a frozen lake.

And finally, though this happened much earlier in the movie, Jim Goldenrod, the man who put together the entire ice road operation, went down with his rig after he became entangled in a cable as he attempted to pull his trailer out of the partially broken ice. The first victim of Katka’s plan, Jim’s death shed light on the sinister plan that had been put in motion.

And the 26 miners trapped inside the mountain? Well, despite there being a plan from inside the mine to kill the injured survivors to preserve oxygen, everyone comes out alive in the end.

Benjamin Walker in The Ice Road

Making Sense Of The Ice Road’s Big Twist

With the death of Jim Goldenrod comes The Ice Road’s big twist: Tom Varnay is there to make sure the wellheads make it to the mine, he’s there to make sure they don’t. This becomes even more evident when Tom tries to kill Mike and Gurty before holding Amber hostage. Here it becomes Katka has no intention of allowing the rigs to deliver the wellheads to save the miners and instead wants the operation to fail so George Sickle can cover up his cost-cutting operation that involved paying the miners $100 apiece each month in exchange for making sure the methane sensors are turned off. And although the explosion was an accident, an investigation into it would have led to the discovery of Sickle’s scheme.

From the outside looking in, the whole solution by the Katka general manager seems like a terrible idea, but we have to remember this a man who is pushed to his absolute limit and has spent an undisclosed amount of time cutting corners and risking countless lives in the process. To George, this just seems like a natural progression of his plan and he’s in way too deep to simply step on the brakes and stop the plan in motion.

Amber Midthunder and Liam Neeson in The Ice Road

Do We Need The Ice Road 2?

By the time The Ice Road ending comes around, everyone’s story is wrapped up nicely: Mike uses his share of the earnings to buy a rig of his own, Tantoo is working at the Goldenrod garage, the miners are safe and sound, and everyone involved in plan at Katka has been brought to justice. With a self-contained story like this, it would be totally fine if we never got The Ice Road 2, but who’s going to say that wouldn’t be a damn good time.

If Jonathan Hensleigh were to write a sequel and Liam Neeson pushed his retirement from the action genre back a little, there is potential for an equally fun second movie. Who doesn’t want to see Mike McCann drive out on a road made of thawing ice in a race against time? I mean, he did have that meeting with the Canadian deputy minister of natural resources before getting that sweet golden truck.

If we never get The Ice Road 2 and we’re left wondering what the open road has in store for Mike McCann, at least we got to enjoy a fun throwback to the action thrillers of the ‘90s and have a little fun for a couple of hours. While we wait, why not take a look at the 2021 new movie releases to see what other thrilling titles are coming to theaters and streaming services the next few months.

Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.