Arctic: A Very Intense Survival Thriller

Mads Mikkelsen stars as Overgård in ARCTIC, a Bleecker Street release. Credit: Helen Sloan SMPSP/Bleecker Street

To say that Arctic is a very intense survival thriller wouldn’t be an understatement because this is a film that takes us along for a worrisome ride from start to finish.

After surviving a plane crash, Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) is living on his own while fighting for survival.  He has the same daily routine, which includes catching fish and cranking up a machine in the hope of finding rescue.  One day, rescue comes or so we think.  When the pilot loses control of the helicopter, all is seemingly lost.  With one survivor (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) barely even alive, how much longer can Overgård and company stay put?

When it comes to making their way to the Arctic station, there’s the choice of which way do you go.  Do you go the two-day journey that has an obstacle?  Or would you rather go the five-day journey that is cold and windy?  It’s one of those cases where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  There’s no easy decision to make in this instance.  You have to do what you can to survive, even if it means fighting off a polar bear.  And no, they won’t help you open a Coca-Cola bottle!

Mads Mikkelsen has to carry this film from start to finish.  It’s not easy because he doesn’t have much to say.  This was a decision that Joe Penna made early on in writing the film.  Hell, we don’t even know much about the character’s background or how he even got himself in this situation.  Even when we meet the other survivor, she’s barely even conscious so there’s hardly any dialogue on her part.

Let’s talk about the visuals.  This is a film that is able to capture both the loneliness and majestic beauty of the Arctic.  One look around and there’s not a person out there in sight.  A polar bear (Aggie as opposed to a CGI creation), maybe, but that’s just about it.  I say this even as climate change means that the ice starts melting earlier.  Tómas Örn Tómasson’s cinematography beautifully captures the region even as we fear that a rescue might not happen anytime soon.  On top of that and this speaks to Joe Penna’s screenplay, some of the frames don’t get the added context until the camera starts to pull out.

What writer-director Joe Penna does with his intense survival thriller, Arctic, is truly innovative in many respects. This film is presented in a way in which you can’t just wonder off while watching at home.  This is a film that will play just as well at home as it well on the big screen.  But taking language out of the film for the most part is truly such a bold decision.  Maybe this will be something that we see happening more and more in the future.

DIRECTOR:  Joe Penna
SCREENWRITERS:  Joe Penna & Ryan Morrison
CAST:  Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Bleecker Street opens Arctic in NY/LA on February 1, 2019.  A theatrical expansion will follow. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.