While many films pit their protagonist against a human counterpart, others depict those who must face the natural elements and all that comes with it. Co-written and directed by Joe Penna, Arctic is a new survival drama film that aims to do just that. Gruelling in its subject matter and purposeful in its pace, this is a movie that successfully delivers a brutal experience.
The story follows a man stranded in the Arctic, trying his best to survive. Mads Mikkelson portrays the lead, Overgård, the individual doing all he can to find a way out of the treacherous predicament.
Beginning sometime after our protagonist became lost in the tundra, we start the film positioned within this mans daily life, trying to live and hoping to be saved. This is a movie that does not feel the need to hold your hand with its narrative. Instead, we are given the context of the story through visual cues, in a way that allows us to piece everything together. It is this confident approach that offers a captivating viewing experience and cements the severity of the events that unfold.
You feel every moment of pain that Mikkelson’s character has to endure. His performance is remarkable in its simplicity, ensuring that you understand his intentions with just a glance in a certain direction. Although this film is successful in many ways, it is undoubtedly carried by Mikkelson’s superb acting. Shot in the real freezing plains of Iceland, one wonders if there was an element to the shoot that simulated the story revealed in the picture. No matter what, the performance seen onscreen is truly exceptional.
While the movie is very effective in its delivery of a man’s harrowing journey, its ending does stand out as a prominent negative among it all. Without spoiling what happens, there is a story choice made that feels incompatible with the journey taken to get there. There was a logical end to the narrative followed, and unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to create a somewhat disappointing conclusion.
Moving on to the various parts that create the whole, the movie is really well made. The direction by Joe Penna is solid and the cinematography by Tómas Örn Tómasson highlights the beautifully foreboding arctic tundra. Furthermore, at just over 90 minutes in length, the editing briskly takes us through the events while also allowing for moments of reflection.
Despite having lackluster final moments, Arctic strongly displays one man’s battle against nature. In many ways, it is everything it needed to be. This is not necessarily a must-see release but is worth it for Mikkelson’s powerful performance alone.