Zeal is a virtue when it is put into practice as service of others. The clever, cerebral, and reclusive heroine of Smilla's Sense of Snow is a Copenhagen scientist who cherishes her independence and privacy. The one exception to her preference to stay way from people is Isaiah, a young Eskimo neighbor, who wins his way into her heart. When he mysteriously falls to his death from their building's rooftop, Smilla is convinced that he as murdered. Using the same reserves of courage and tenacity that fueled her mother's career as an Inuit hunter, she comes up against the unusual activities of a mining corporation headed by a nefarious man called Tork (Richard Harris).

Smilla's Sense of Snow is based on Peter Hoeg's bestselling 1993 suspense novel. The literate screenplay by Ann Biderman vividly conveys the heroine's intelligence and idiosyncrasies. It is the best role of Julia Ormond's career. She shines when talking about the beauty of mathematics or the variations of snow. The drama is populated by colorful characters including a stuttering neighbor (Gabriel Byrne), Smilla's knowledgeable physician father (Robert Loggia), a Christian corporate accountant (Vanessa Redgrave), and a blind sound technician.

Director Billie August has brought this intriguing novel to the screen with all of its mysteries intact. Best of all are the exotic opening and closing scenes where cinematographer Jorgen Persson conveys the austere beauty of Greenland.