At some point, survival just isn’t enough…
Arctic puts us in the middle of the worst case scenario that we all imagine but could never possibly survive and makes us ask questions of ourselves that defy logic but translate into the human condition.
A man (Mads Mikkelsen) 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.
On one end, Arctic is a stunning debut feature from writer/director Joe Penna that simply looks like a million bucks but pushes to some complex character decision making that just feels a little unsatisfying.
To be fair, I think there’s something about the genre that bothers me. I can appreciate the situation that the character finds themselves in but here in Arctic, Penna really didn’t give us much sense of how long Mads Mikkelsen’s character had been stranded in the middle of the frozen tundra and it all plays out a little vaguely. The film is hardly a new premise, but to his credit Penna does a stellar job at executing the entire narrative from beginning to end.
At the core of it all, Penna wraps us up in the minutiae of a day to day existence when you’re stranded and alone but the eventual motivation to change your routine of survival; which had been working pretty well up to that point feels a little forced. I’ll grant that comes down to a personal issue and a movie where a guy stays in one place doing the exact same thing on a day to day basis in order to survive isn’t exactly super compelling and the narrative naturally has to go SOMEWHERE. My dislike of the genre aside, this is a very well made movie but you have to buy into the scenario that is being placed in front of us.
With the wrong actor a film like this could have easily crashed and burned (pun very much intended) but Mads Mikkelsen has the quiet, frenetic energy to be able to sell the situation. With very little dialogue in play throughout the entire film, Mikkelsen has to sell moments with a grunt, a sigh or even a pained look on his face. It’s not the easiest type of role to play, but he is more then up to the challenge to make this all work.
There’s an immediacy and urgency to Arctic that you can’t help but appreciate watch play out in the visual form, but you really do have to buy into the entire situation and suspend a little bit of disbelief for this to truly been an effective cinematic diversion.