Mads Mikkelsen in a survival drama? Sign me up. Mads Mikkelsen in anything? Sign me up.
Synopsis: A man stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive. (Elevation Pictures)
Starring: Mads Mikkelsen and Maria Thelma Smáradóttir
Writers: Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison
Directors: Joe Penna
Rating: PG (Canada)/ PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 97mins
Arctic follows the story of a pilot named Overgard (Mikkelsen) who becomes stranded somewhere in the Arctic after his airplane crashes. He manages to survive on his own using his instincts and makeshift camp until a helicopter finds him. However, it crashes and the only survivor is badly injured. He must decide whether to stay in the safety of his camp or face the unknown to save them both from this treacherous terrain.
This intense dramatic thriller about a lone person’s survival story that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout its entire running time. It may feel a bit slow for those who enjoy fast-paced action films, but this is a tightly woven story of man’s determination to live. The struggle of survival paired with the innate nature of humanity and companionship help drive this film and its character forward. It creates an authentic character arc for Overgard that was not expected. The story in turn ends up being more layered and emotional than it deserves to be thanks to these themes.
Director Joe Penna of MysteryGuitarMan fame proves to be a formidable force behind the camera in his debut feature. He manages to make the setting a prominent secondary character in the story. The cinematography of the breathtaking Arctic location creates quite the desolate and chilling atmosphere. The soundscape and editing further enhance this experience creating a haunting cinematic experience for this survival story. The score acts like the third main character of this film. The orchestral pieces help accent the sombre tone of the story. They are selectively added to scenes making sure not to overpower the performance at hand.
Speaking of the performance, this film is so successful and powerful thanks to its lead actor. Mikkelsen is one of only a few actors who can actually say so much without saying a single word. His performance is raw with a subtly to it while also managing to deliver a tantalizing character. He uses a full range of emotion that makes us feel for Overgard and hope that he finds his salvation. His facial expressions show us his highs and his lows as this man tries to survive in absolute isolation. It is extremely surprising that this performance is not being talked about more. This performance is a career-best from him.
Arctic is a superb snowy survival drama that brings a chillier version to the man versus nature battle. While the slow survival narrative may not excite fans of more fast-paced thrillers, the authentic story, realistic themes and raw lead performance complemented by the immersive and immaculate cinematography and direction creates a brilliant cinematic experience of perseverance and hope. This film is one of the best survival stories ever told.
*Arctic opens in Toronto on February 8th before expanding over the following weeks*
On top of writing reviews for this site, I also post video reviews on my YouTube channel The Film Fanatic where we post other content like countdown videos, movie recommendations, script analyses and more.