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Ice Cold in Alex is a World War II film about a bunch of British soldiers trying to outrun the Afrika Korps in the North African desert in an ambulance after they're cut off from their column in the wake of Rommel's assault. The drama concentrates on the interplay among the characters in their struggle to cross the desert alive rather than on the war happening around them, but provides an important framing device for their personal struggle.
Possibly the first post-War film in which the Germans were not simply depicted as a faceless and valueless enemy.
This film provides examples of:
- Based on a True Story
- Companion Cube: Katy.
- Cool Ambulance: Katy, the Austin K2/Y Ambulance.
- Crossing the Desert: Probably the best Trope Codifier in the world.
- Defeat Means Friendship: van der Poel is exceptionally cocky and doesn't take Anson seriously... until his stroll across the minefield is abruptly halted by a round metal object under his boot.
- The Determinator: "I'm gonna get Katy to Alex, you understand? I'm going to. It's a personal thing."
- Dramatic Necklace Removal: Tom Pugh has to rip off Otto's South African dog-tags to prevent him from being identified as a spy.
- Drinking on Duty: Anson spends the start of the film slightly... chemically imbalanced.
- Drowning My Sorrows: Anson is a borderline alcoholic due to the stress he's been put under during the African campaign. After he gets a nurse killed by his own stupidity, he vows not to drink until they're out of the desert and safe in Alexandria.
- Five-Man Band;
- The Hero: Captain Anson who successfully navigates the crew through incredibly hostile territory.
- The Lancer: Sister Murdoch; not second in command as such, but a stark contrast to Anson who helps keep him sane.
- The Smart Guy: Tom Pugh, who stops both the ambulance and the main character from disintegrating.
- The Big Guy: van der Poel, who does an ungodly amount of (almost literally) backbreaking work.
- The Chick: Sister Norton, who's terrified and completely out of her depth, is described by Murdoch as a "silly little thing" and pays for Anson's recklessness with her life.
- Frothy Mugs of Water: Famously averted in the beer-downing finale.
- Subverted in that they filmed alternate scenes of the survivors drinking sarsaparilla, because there were still 'Dry' states in the U.S. that would have censored the film.
- Greater Need Than Mine: Averted; Anson tries to stay behind in Tobruk in order to save his friend who lived through the first seige, but he's ordered to follow the column to Alexandria. His friend is left behind and blames Anson for it.
- Hope Spot: When the ambulance is winched up to the top of the ridge only to roll all the way back down again because no-one put the handbrake on.
- Humble Goal: The title comes from Anson's yearning for a cold beer.
- If We Get Through This: Anson promises to buy the entire crew a beer if they make it through the desert alive.
- I Need a Freaking Drink: Played straight with Anson at the start of the film, averted later, despite van der Poel's stockpile of gin.
van der Poel: "So what do I do if he asks for a drink?"
- Also played straight on a meta-level; the heat of the desert and the characters' struggle is so palpable in this film that almost all who watch it will crave a beer after the finale. So much so that Carlsberg used the ending sequence in the bar, unedited, as a straight up advert for their own beer.
- It Has Been an Honour: Van Der Poel to the rest at the end of the film although he isn't going to die, just be taken as a POW.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Murdoch and Anson clearly have chemistry, but Anson is all too aware of his problems.
Murdoch: I'd like to be coming with you.
Anson: See? I've started already.
- Kill the Cutie: Denise's fate.
- Land Mine Goes Click: Averted. It's a discarded ration tin.
- The Mole: Captain van der Poel
- The Napoleon: Anson starts the movie as a bit of a belligerent oaf, more due to being sick of the war than malice, but redeems himself thanks to Character Development. But he's still short.
- Nobody Poops: Averted.
"You should never ask a man what he's doing when he takes a shovel into the desert!"
- Oh Crap: Anson and Pugh at seeing their commanding officer blown up... but not for the obvious reasons.
Pugh: "My toolkit!"
- Officer and a Gentleman: Anson especially after he risks being tried for treason by concealing van der Poel's true identity as a spy from his superiors.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: A drunkard captain, an engineer, a refugee nurse and a lost South African soldier.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Averted; as Murdoch is about to apply lipstick before going into the bar for her well-deserved beer, she realises it was all used for marking the grave of Norton.
- Shot At Dawn: Averted, thanks to the crew's admiration for German spy van der Poel/Otto Lutz.
- Spot of Tea: Van der Poel is rumbled partly due to not knowing how to make tea in the desert properly
- The Stoic: Captain Anson. Although at first his stoicism seems to come straight out of a bottle, his determination is what keeps the rest of the gang going.
- Stuff Blowing Up: A given considering it's a war movie.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Averted, in that the Germans are portrayed as normal soldiers who actually help the gang on one occasion although this is partly due to van der Poel being a German spy. Truth in Television to an extent, as Rommel was a highly honourable commander and the Afrika Korps were renowned for being as civilised as one can be in a war.
- Unkempt Beauty: Sister Murdoch doesn't weather quite so badly as the men, but a few days in the desert gives her chapped lips and frizzled hair.
- Worthy Opponent: Van der Poel at the end is saluted as one of these, and of course the desert itself.