Directed by: Joe Penna. Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir. Runtime: 1h 38 min. Released: February 1, 2019.
A man named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) is stranded in the Arctic after a plane crash and is thrust into a rescue situation when a helicopter crashes and he nurses a character named Young Woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) back to health and figures their best chance for survival is trekking into the unknown terrain.
The direction by Joe Penna is solid and the cinematography by Tómas Örn Tómasson is fantastic as he captures the dire weather well. Before I discuss anything else, survival films are tricky for me. I either think they’re amazing (Life of Pi, Cast Away) or boring as hell (127 Hours). For me, there’s rarely an in-between. Arctic falls convincingly into the boring as hell category. Not a lot happens in the film and we have to figure out what Overgård is doing as the screenplay by Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison rarely explains things. That’s fine, as there’s limited dialogue, but it doesn’t help develop its characters.
There’s very little dialogue here, but Mikkelsen gives a strong performance with few words because he can emote so well. It’s quiet, reflective and effective. Still, just not a lot happens here as we start with Overgård already stranded in the Arctic as the film only seems to have the budget for the one helicopter crash when Young Woman comes into play. Before they set off into the cold, I was waiting for Overgård to do something. He was just wallowing in self-pity and then he’d see a polar bear from afar and I thought, “Ooooh, this could be interesting.” Then the polar bear just walked on and nothing happened. This well-acted bore does that a lot – seems to promise action, but nothing happens.
The film’s an example of strong filmmaking, but not one to be watched for entertainment. There are two bursts of action in this film that kept me from napping, but the little dialogue just made it hard for me to become emotionally invested in these characters that I never knew. I know man vs. nature isn’t always entertaining, but this one is just hard to get through and the somewhat anti-climactic ending is frustrating. It sure is a pretty film to look at, but its contents did little for me.