After disappointing Polar , another Netflix blunder, I was really anxious to see Arctic, with both movies starring none other than one of the modern greats Mads Mikkelsen. In case you’re not familiar with his works, I highly recommend you start with Pusher and just move forward in time, enjoying in such movies as Blinkende lygter, Adams æbler, Mænd & høns, Jagten and finally his first entry in commercial productions The Salvation, a movie with a very familiar theme but still extremely potent and engaging. Arctic is a directorial debut for Joe Penna, who perfected his craft making movies on YouTube. So, what do we have here? One hell of a survival movie, hitting all the sweet spots. With phenomenal cinematography, great acting from basically the only actor and excellent storytelling, Arctic is an experience that will reinvigorate your love towards those snow-covered and desolate places far away. For me, the fascination began with The Thing, a movie that I watched over and over again, basically living in that station with MacReady and Childs. In recent times, this sub-genre has been relatively popular with several snow movies being released every few years.
After a forced landing somewhere in the Arctic circle, Overgård, the only survivor of the whole ordeal has fallen into a routine. Every day he checks his fishing lines, tends to a giant SOS sign and many other things, in the freezing Arctic weather. One of those things is using an old distress beacon that he powers up every day, hoping that someone might hear him. One day, during a heavy blizzard, he notices something in the distance and as he focused his vision, Overgård could clearly see a helicopter hovering near his small settlement…
Arctic has great pacing and is incredibly tense at times. It reminded me of a documentary that blew me away a couple of years ago, Meru. Entirely shot in Iceland, it is a strange movie that you will like, if for nothing else than for the mesmerizing and untouched scenery of this beautiful country. Dialogue is almost non-existent and most of the storytelling relies on our main man Mads and subtle and not so subtle camera-work. This worked great, stripping bare all the gimmicks usually used in these productions and focusing our attention on the story and fate of one human being surviving alone in these harsh conditions. And if you need an example of how these gimmicks can fuck up a great movie in theory, look no further than 2017 The Mountain Between Us, starring Idris Elba and Kate Winslet. There’s a lot of empathy here, about the same amount as escapism. As our current society slowly crumbles under its own weight, life gets more and more difficult and complex and soon we find ourselves longing for those days of simple, repetitive tasks. But those tasks must be imposed upon us, meaning there has to be some external force inflicting this condition over which we don’t have any control and is not controlled by other humans. The same thing can be said about post-apocalyptic movies, another genre that exploded in recent years with the survival genre staying strong throughout the years. In the end, Arctic is a movie that will seem familiar but will ultimately be refreshing, especially if you like this sub-genre. Enjoy.
Director: Joe Penna
Writers: Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir
Imdb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6820256/