Cast: Mads Mikkelsen
Director: Joe Penna
Well, now I have to add plane crashes in the Arctic as situations that I know I wouldn’t be able to survive. Seriously, Arctic is absolutely brutal to watch and I don’t know how Penna made a movie like this in his directorial debut. For a movie that’s exclusively a man vs. nature survival drama, this may be one of the most intense of the year. Arctic is the type of movie that even though the plot is simplistic and easy to follow, it presents the harsh reality of a life and death situation and holds nothing back in the process.
The film follows Overgard (Mikkelsen) after his plane crashes in the Arctic and he fights for survival and a chance to be rescued. All of life’s elements burden him along the way, whether this is starvation, the freezing cold, or the physical dangers of the unknown. As you can probably figure out, this is a very straightforward movie to figure. It’s simplistic enough to the point where details that would make other movies successful are absent from Arctic and it actually works out in this case. There’s no lead up to the plane crashing; the plane is just there. There’s no backstory for Overgard; he’s just a man trying to get out of this peril. Normally we see movies like Arctic give some sort of insight into Overgard’s character, probably through a flashback or a picture that he uses to motivate him, but that isn’t the case here. Arctic is 97 minutes of Overgard taking on the world around him and it doesn’t need any additional aspects to make it special. Outside of the straightforwardness of Arctic, I have to applaud Mikkelsen for taking on such a physically demanding role. It couldn’t have been that hard to memorize the lines since he had maybe 15 lines of dialogue throughout the movie, but this couldn’t have been fun to act in. Being out in the blistering cold and snow for 19 days showcasing the struggles of a person fighting for survival must have been an incredibly taxing experience but the end result was worth it for the viewers. Mikkelsen has created quite a career for himself over the years, but those who watch his performance in Arctic will recognize that it is one of the best performances of his career. Finally, the realism presented with each scene is one of the things that truly separates Arctic from its competitors. While the elements shown are pretty standard in context, Arctic immerses the audience to make them believe that they’re right there with Overgard. One scene in particular was quite possibly the scariest scene of the year and even though I knew it was coming, the impact is still incredibly relevant. Arctic is a unique film that should’ve gotten a larger release from Bleecker Street, but for those who did watch it, they’ll have to agree that very few man vs. nature movies can match what was done here.
Overall, sometimes simplicity is the key when it comes to a film’s premise, and Arctic takes a very simple idea and turns it into one of the most intense viewing experiences of 2019. This is almost exactly how I would imagine a plane crash in the Arctic looking like and it’s amazing to think that this project came at the hands of a first-time director. I’ve officially become a fan of Penna and based on what he’s working on right now, it looks like he doesn’t have any plans of slowing down and I’m genuinely excited for what he releases in the future.
Overall Score: 7.5/10