THREE AND A HALF STARS After his plane crashes in the Arctic, one man has to walk for help across the frozen north.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to find yourself alone in the Arctic with just a broken plane for shelter then wonder no more. Mads Mikkelsen is about to bring it all to life in this visceral account of a man marooned in the frozen north.
The lone survivor of a plane accident, he’s methodically doing what he can to be rescued: carving SOS into the snow, regularly charging up manual radio beacons, fishing in ice holes and avoiding a hungry polar bear. His fortunes tumble when he’s spotted by a helicopter that then gets caught in a wind sheer and also crashes. The Arctic is a treacherous place. He rescues the pilot, barely alive, and decides that the time has come to do the impossible and walk to the nearest inhabited base. He probably won’t make it, the pilot even less so, but there’s no option but to get help.
ARCTIC is the kind of film that reaches inside to twist every nerve ending as each on-screen action is met with an equally jarring offscreen reaction. As mentioned, it’s a visceral experience and one that director Joe Penna amplifies with precise and measured visual staging (this was a Canne’s Golden Camera nominee last year). It’s a gorgeous film, in an alarming kind of way.
Given the movie has virtually no dialogue and a total cast of three (one of whom arrives dead and the other might as well be), it’s entirely up to Mikkelsen to carry your attention, a job he does with astonishing skill. Always a compelling presence, he nonetheless drives the entire experience not once letting your mind wander away from his gruelling ordeal. It’s a seriously good performance.
ARCTIC doesn’t have much of a message beyond ‘the wilderness is astoundingly beautiful but it will kill you given half a chance’. This is a sensory experience and at that level is sensational. With every frame you feel the cold, the hunger, thirst, pain, frustration, anger, resentment, trepidation, fear, loathing, dedication and perhaps at some level, love, experienced by Mikkelsen’s character. Like it or not, you’re with him every traumatic step of the way.