Think ‘All is Lost’ with less water and think ‘Castaway’ with a substantial amount of snow. Now hold that image and you have, ‘Arctic.’ The best way to describe it is by saying it’s the survival picture of all survival pictures. And the way Joe Penna shot the film made it feel incredibly realistic. In fact, allow me to pass on a word of warning… you’ll get chills watching it. This being the case, if you see it this weekend, bring an extra sweater. It helps. On more than one occasion you might feel the urge to cuddle up to something for warmth and for strength.
The survivor we’re getting to know in this film carves ‘SOS’ in the snow every day. He makes it large enough so his message might be seen by a plane passing over… if one ever does. We see that this man is named, Overgård (Mikkelsen). At least that’s what we assume his name is since that’s what the jacket he wears (provided it’s his) tells us.
There are no other survivors with him from what was obviously a plane crash but an indication he wasn’t alone when it went down. The poor man is freezing and he’s hungry. In one scene he manages to make Ramen noodles look like first-rate cuisine.
Overgård’s been alone for what looks to be about a month or two. Having escaped death so far, he definitely knows how to take advantage of all tools available to him. These are probably skills he’s learned in Scouts, his training at work or both. He seems optimistic and to be holding onto hope that he’ll be found but his eyes say that his spirit is starting to fade. The weather isn’t such that he would attempt to try and walk North and possibly to safety. Instead, he’s content to stay in the valley that he’s grown accustomed to until someone comes to his rescue. He has been innovative when it comes to catching fish and out of what’s left of the body of the plane, he’s made a little home. For what that might look like, think of the film ‘Alive.’ Better yet, don’t think of that one. Hopefully, he didn’t have to eat anyone at this point.
Once you get to know Overgård, you begin to wonder what led him to this moment. What has he already endured? Why hasn’t he been found? How long has it been? Does he have someone looking for him or is it possible there’s nothing for him to go back to? All of this is left to the imagination of the viewer and one of the reasons you’ll admire the film and the performance Mikkelsen (The Three Musketeers, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) gives. What he does with little to no dialogue is a noteworthy achievement. Overgård is tough but tender. He’s intelligent and innocent. He’s every hero you can perceive him to be while at the same time he’ll have you wanting to leap onto the screen and help shoulder some of his burdens in the hopes you see him saved. That moment finally comes. He has a chance to be rescued. One day a helicopter flies over and sees him. For this, you will be gleeful.
Hold on! You didn’t think you were going to get off that easily, did you?? No way. Due to a strong draft of wind, the helicopter is forced down. After seeing him so hopeful, it’s difficult to witness Overgård so crushed. Thankfully, this doesn’t last long because his training kicks into gear and he runs to the helicopter to see if he can help. The pilot is dead, but the female co-pilot is still alive. He gets the young woman (Smáradóttir) out and to his plane where he begins to nurse her back to health. She’s so severely injured that she’s barely hanging on but as he has had to for himself, he decides to be her rock. The helicopter proves to be a treasure of goodies. He retrieves a sled to pull her and a lighter and fuel for warmth. Desperate for company and delighted with his stash, he’s now sanguine toward making it until another helicopter shows. Surely someone will be coming after her, right? The supply from the wreckage should buy him more time until that help arrives. He finds a picture his nearly comatose patient has. From this, he learns she’s a mother. As time ticks by, he begins to realize how dire the situation is for his new charge. So far, he’s been willing to brave the cold, the polar bears and possible death for himself. But through her returning to her family, he finds a new reason to fight and decides he’ll make the trek to an outpost on foot.
As he pulls her along in the snow and ice, ‘Arctic’ gets more and more intense and unforgiving. Every possible danger there is to encounter, he manages to find. His struggle to get help will have you struggling in your seat. He’s located an outpost on a map and has established how long it’ll take to get there. He chooses a certain route but when it proves impossible with his haul, he resolves to take the longer, windier and more precarious path. With what he’s being exposed to, he begins to look like death but refuses to give up. I’ll leave you to wonder what happens next.
Don’t wait for cable to see this movie. It’s thoroughly entertaining. The big screen lends help to the mood so see this at the theatre. Sound, as well as the soundtrack, are used to influence and manipulate you. You’ll respect what writers Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison have in store for you but rejoice in the fact that they didn’t stretch ‘Arctic’ out to two full hours as most films do today. This journey is hard to watch as it is, without it being stretched to the breaking point for no reason. ‘Arctic’ is a brilliant adventure so bundle up and see it tonight.