After crashing his plane in the Arctic some months ago, a solitary man (Mads Mikkelsen) survives in a frozen wasteland through meticulous and unending routine, waiting to be found. When his chance at rescue goes awry, he must decide whether to stay put, or risk life and limb against the elements and rocky terrain in the hopes of reaching an outpost before it’s too late.
Arctic, a survival drama shot in Iceland, is the feature film directorial debut of Joe Penna (Turning Point), and is written by Penna and Ryan Morrison (Beyond). Interestingly, the whole story was originally set on Mars, and later changed.
Arctic is a quiet and contemplative film that raises more questions than it answers. Why was he out there? Was he alone in the plane? And what of his life before the crash? The film is a snapshot of one man’s struggle against nature.
Despite a cast of two and less than a dozen lines of dialogue, this film is surprisingly captivating and suspenseful. Arctic is a simple premise, executed well in both production and acting. What little action there is in the film is done well and doesn’t go over the top to thrill or frighten its viewers, while managing to maintain a feeling of suspense. Any special effects used are reserved enough to be wholly believable.
A documentary of the production might have been exciting and eventful than the film itself, with Mikkelsen saying it was the most difficult shoot of his career, featuring winds so strong a few doors were ripped off cars. The film is too slow for those who prefer the adrenaline of a gory, action-packed survival film. Arctic is instead more suited for those who enjoy subtler films. However, the film is unhurried, taking the time to appropriately handle the gravity of the situation.
Its minimalism speaks to a certain ‘death of the author’ type emptiness, wherein the audience will see what they want to. Much of the crucial plot is to be inferred by the viewer, meaning it is not a film to watch lightly. The film invites scrutiny, curiosity, and a heightened sense of empathy with the protagonist. The subtle nature of the film means that Mikkelsen’s presence is larger than life – his every gesture, minute expression, and word becomes an artwork for interpretation and deliberation. This being said, the film speaks loudest about the man’s deep psychological and physical loneliness.
This film is more mystery than story, but enjoyable even so, with enough gut-wrenching twists to keep you intrigued.
I rate this film 7/10.
Arctic will be in select cinemas from February 14th.