|Via Rotten Tomatoes|
Arctic is a tense journey through wintery climate, led by a devoted Mads Mikkelsen who you’re never completely sure will make it to the end.
Stranded after an airplane crash, a man spends each day repeating the same processes by the tune of his watch’s alarm, awaiting rescue. After someone else suffers a similar fate in his vicinity, he takes it upon himself to trek to the nearest air station instead of continue waiting for rescue, with the other person dragged by sled behind him.
You may know him as the bad guy in Casino Royale or Doctor Strange but Mads Mikkelsen really makes a name for himself with his role in this movie. Being the only person in a film, especially one with minimal dialogue and requiring a lot of physical acting, can be difficult for an actor; there is no room to roll on by with charm. Mikkelsen’s performance not only matches the physicality required for the role, but he also does a good job appearing to be in control when under the surface he is on the brink of giving up all hope; as the film pushes on and the obstacles get worse, this appearance of hope and control grows increasingly empty as his lips become dry and his fingers numb. This isn’t the first time Mikkelsen has excelled on minimal lines, as he once again shows his acting worth.
Where the film lacks dialogue, Arctic makes up for it in visual storytelling. Cinematographer Tómas Örn Tómasson’s harrowingly beautiful depiction of the desolate Icelandic landscape and frequent use of long shots comparing the minuscule size of Mikkelsen relative to the snow-covered mountains do excellent work establishing the “all odds are against him” circumstance for our protagonist. Arctic goes that extra effort to remind the audience how helpless our character is and how impressive his feat of survival is; the power of visual awareness is key in creating the man vs. wilderness conflict that makes any good survival film compelling. Throw in a subtle score which peaks in key moments, and you’ve got yourself quite the film. Writer-Director Joe Penna’s more conventional use of foreshadowing (for example, a bear’s footprint or a dark sky off in the distance) and choice of ending, end up undermining what is an otherwise fresh and original film in its genre. There are also moments in the film I felt could’ve been better capitalized either emotionally or in terms of thrills. However, I appreciated the film skipping any unnecessary exposition and cutting right to the chase.
If you’re a fan of survival films, I totally recommend you check Arctic out. 7.5/10