If there has ever been a ‘dad’ movie to exist, it most certainly has to be
From Joe Penna, a director who has made a couple of short films in the past but is making his feature-film debut here, Arctic is a new Icelandic survival film (which isn't to be confused with Polar; a different Mads Mikkelsen Netflix film that was also released a few weeks ago which I thought was quite awful) starring Mikkelsen that takes place in, you guessed it, the Arctic.
No, this isn’t a documentary about me, a West Michigan resident, brushing the snow off of my car in the morning, but I see how you could make that mistake.
Overgård (Mikkelsen) has been stranded somewhere in the Arctic Circle for God-knows how long.
At this point, he probably isn’t sure how long it has been either, although one of the great parts about this movie is that they never give any exposition as to the length of time he’s been there or how he even got there in the first place.
What we do know is that, at some point, Overgård is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left him shipwrecked in the middle of the ice and snow.
Rescue may or may not be coming (although, judging by the length of our protagonist’s facial hair, it likely would have been here by now if it was coming at all), but there’s nothing Overgård can really do to speed that process along regardless.
To keep his mind occupied, Overgård spends his days sleeping inside the debris left behind in the plane-wreck, drilling holes in the ice to catch fish in, clearing off snow on mountainsides to make SOS signals, mapping out his surrounding and sending out distress beacons with the transportable radio he managed to salvage.
So, yeah, his life is pretty much the pits.
Then, one day, it happens. He wakes to the sound of a helicopter in the near area and, for a brief minute, Overgård thinks that this nightmare might finally be coming to an end.
That feeling of relief is instantly met with more anguish and dismay as, to his horror, he watches the winter winds take down that helicopter, forcing it to fall headlong into a valley right next to the very spot where he, himself, crashed (it's the inciting incident, so not a spoiler).
After taking a moment to collect himself, Overgård runs over to see if there are any survivors.
Upon arrival, he finds the pilot lying in the snow in a bloody, grotesque heap, while the helicopter itself appears to be completely immobile. There is, however, a young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), who appears to be unconscious and injured, but is alive nonetheless.
There’s more good news. After searching through the helicopter’s remnants, Overgård not only finds some ramen packets (which is compliment brilliantly by Mikkelsen's acting as we see him rip the containers open and savagely bite into the raw noodles), but he also discovers a map that seems to suggest a survival home — point of rescue — may only be a two or three days walk away.
The young woman’s condition is quickly deteriorating, though, meaning that he’s going to have to act fast if he wants to save her life — especially given that she’s unable to walk, which means Overgård is going to have to pull her in a rescue sled all the way to the shelter.
The desolate neighborhood has a different plan in mind for the two survivors. Freezing temperatures, winter storms and hungry polar bears put their lives in jeopardy, meaning it’s a winner-take-all battle between man vs. nature.
The premise may sound similar to Joe Carnahan and Liam Neeson’s The Grey, which was released back in 2011, even though the films themselves are really quite different.
Contrary to popular belief, The Grey was a survival movie that wasn’t really about the survival or characters themselves. It was a bleak and rather depressing take on death, the afterlife and the pointless of existence itself that just happened to have wolves at the forefront of the film.
Arctic, on the other hand, is about survival through and through — to the point where Penna really isn’t concerned about anything else in his movie.
At an absolute maximum, Mikkelsen is maybe given thirty lines of dialogue throughout the entire course of those movies. Any real, concrete sentences that he delivers are shown in the trailer, as the rest of the movie is mostly just grunts and desperate yells.
Instead, Arctic focuses on the brutal, unforgiving world surrounding the two main characters, forcing them to survive the various circumstances that the screenplay comes up with.
Luckily, Penna is able to tell that survival tale really well.
Even with the minimal dialogue, we still feel for these characters and want to see them make it to safety. Maybe it’s because of Mikkelsen’s physical performance (even though he barely speaks, you get an actor like Mikkelsen in this role because he’s going to be able to sell you on his character based on his actions alone) or maybe it’s because of everything that’s thrown at them, but there’s never a point where we lose interest in the story being told about these two.
That’s a lot harder of a task then most people think it is, as there aren’t any cheats or deus ex machinas that
Free filmmaking tip: If you want to make a good-looking movie, shoot it somewhere that has a lot of snow or ice. Winter may be a season that comes straight from Lucifer himself, but it can create some impressive-looking cinematography if done right.
Arctic, then, becomes similar to movies like All is Lost, The Shallows (except, you know, better) and, to a degree, Buried in which it’s just one or two actors who are trapped in a single location, battling the elements.
Sure, Arctic doesn’t really do anything brand new or add anything to the overall conversation of that sub-genre, but it’s able to tell its story in a really well-paced and intense way nonetheless — especially because Penna never gives us that moment of grace where we’re able to leave this setting. There aren’t any flashbacks that demonstrate how Overgård found himself in this situation, giving us that breather we’re so desperately longing for. We’re stuck in this world alongside him from the moment the movie begins to when it ends, creating that claustrophobic kind of atmosphere that can only be successfully executed by a director who actually knows how to tell a story.
So, Arctic may not be the most original or even the best movie you’re going to see in 2019, but there are certainly a lot worse ways to spend an hour and 38 minutes, too.
Check out the trailer for Arctic here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Arctic' - Your dad will probably love this movie [REVIEW]7