Arctic (2018)

Director: Joe Penna
Writer: Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir, Tintrinai Thikhasuk
Part of: /slash Filmfestival 1/2
Seen on: 3.5.2019

Overgård’s (Mads Mikkelsen) plane went down in the Arctic circle months ago and he has found a way to survive, has established a routine for his survival, always in the hope that he will be found and rescued. When a helicopter appears, he believes that his day has finally come. But instead, the helicopter crashes, too. Inside is a lone survivor (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) who is gravely injured. For her sake and his own Overgård has to decide now whether he can continue to stay put, or whether he should take the risk of walking towards help.

Arctic is a strong film that really draws you in – so much so that I got really cold watching it. Unfortunately, the gender dynamics are a little disappointing, but other than that it’s a strong survival film.

The film poster showing a snowy landscape from above, empty except for a broken plane and a lonely human figure walking away from it.

The film is basically the Mads Mikkelsen show, and since I am a huge fan and he has the acting chops to carry a film entirely on his shoulders, that works perfectly as expected. He is simply a big part of what makes Arctic so engaging. But Penna does his part, too. I loved the choice that we start the story when Overgård has already established his own survival skills and mechanisms, so that it almost feels like he can probably do this forever. From that starting point, Penna creates tension and manages to keep it up throughout the entire film.

There’s generally an emotional intensity to the film that draws you in and freezes your own toes as you’re watching all that snow and cold as it almost feels like you fight alongside Overgård for his and the woman’s survival.

Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) holding the hand of a young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) as they both lie in the snow.

The gender dynamics were a little disappointing for me. While it is nice to see that Overgård isn’t just a tough survivor, but also a caring person and that those things aren’t mutually exclusive, what it boils down to is that of the two people who are in the film, the man gets to do everything, make every decision and the woman has absolutely zero agency as she is unconscious most of the time – more or less literally just another difficulty for Overgård. That she carries a photo of a baby and he subsequently uses that to motivate her to stay alive makes it feel like her own life isn’t worth anything for herself, just for herself. And that entire package was super annoying.

But other than that, I really enjoyed the film. Even if it’s not exactly revolutionary when it comes to survival stories, there wasn’t a boring second to it and the film definitely took me along for the ride. And who doesn’t want to ride with Mikkelsen?

Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) sits in his plane wreck.

Summarizing: very good.

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