When you imagine yourself stranded in the depths of the Arctic, all you can feel is loneliness and cold slowly creeping their way through your veins, into the crevices of your mind and settling in your bones. It’s a place that doesn’t hold hope for a positive outcome and one that is aggressively relentless to anyone that may cross it’s path; yet the drama film Arctic from director Joe Penna is designed to give the audience a slither of faith in humanity and show that even in the most dire of situations that perseverance truly is a saviour, one that can determine the fate of more than just one human life.
One man is left surviving off of the land and battling against the conditions when his plane crashes and he is left stranded in the Arctic tundra. After months of fending for himself, a glimpse of rescue arises when a helicopter makes an attempt to save him from the bitter landscape. Unfortunately, the outcome is less than hopeful and leaves the man in an even worse situation than before. He must make the decision whether to continue living at the camp he made or venture into the wilderness to find salvation.
Mads Mikkelsen stars as our protagonist Overgard; a man whom we are given no backstory or information on, something deliberately done to ensure that the audience doesn’t have preconceptions about who he is and whether or not he deserves to survive the ordeal he is currently going through. From the very beginning of the film he is shown as someone with courage and bravery as even though he has found himself isolated in the bleak and freezing Arctic, he is still trying to keep himself alive by continuously catching food, searching for a signal to contact and ensuring his SOS sign is visible. In a situation such as this, it would seem that a person may give up on their fight to keep going, yet our protagonist shows this immense strength and vision to keep on going no matter how many of the odds are against him.
Mikkelsen is soon joined by Maria Thelma Smáradóttir; she is one of the survivors from a helicopter crash that occurred whilst trying to rescue Overgard from the unforgiving arctic landscape. Without any means of communication between them due to language barriers, and with Smáradóttir’s character continuously drifting in and out of consciousness due to injury, it seems that what could only be described as an awful situation has been exacerbated. Through a series of ongoing trials and tribulations, the pair are put through a testament of their own personal strength when it comes to hope and positivity. No matter how hard Overgard tries to save them from the relentless white hole that consumes them, the elements are always one step ahead, making it impossible for him to keep on fighting.
There is one particular scene that hones a The Revenant tone to it, however, doesn’t try to be completely unbelievable in its execution by pitting a man against a polar bear and allowing the man to win. During this scene we see Mikkelsen’s character terrified to the very bone; he does not try to act like a hero, which we see in most films of the same type, he acts as many of us would. It was this moment in the film that really made me realise that Penna is dedicated to realistic portrayals rather than something purely designed for entertainment purposes.
Arctic is a slow-moving film that focuses on humanity and one man’s continuous ambition, hope and perseverance against all of the odds to save himself and another life. Mikkelsen drives this film with another outstanding performance that shows that his acting style is versatile yet grounded in everything that he does. The cinematography is crisp, sharp and bleak in all of its beautifulness.
Arctic is both stressful and suspenseful but driven by a touching look at humanity.
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir
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