2 people struggle for survival in gripping arctic thriller
As you begin to watch “Arctic,” you start to get convinced at how a plane crash survivor is able to survive in the arctic wilderness. You see the man is cold, dirty, and red; and you see his daily routines: fishing, trying to get a plane signal, and making a giant SOS in the ground. That’s for starters.
The man, Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen), has to rest in his crashes plane, and sets a timer on his watch for his daily routines (Please Be Advised: No One is Texting in the Audience). His character is filled with such determination and struggles, we’re rooting for him the ways we rooted for James Franco in “127 Hours” and Robert Redford in “All is Lost.” All of them are from the same decade.
As the story continues, Overgard finds a helicopter, and sets off a flare to grab its attention. However, the wind is so strong that it crash-lands, and the only survivor is a young woman (María Thelma Smáradóttir), who gets wounded in the stomach, and spends most of the movie resting. He drags her in a sled across the arctic to find the nearest sanctuary, and at the same time, they deal with a number of challenges, including strong winds and a hungry polar bear.
“Arctic” doesn’t show us how the hero’s accident happened, but then again, it’s not what the movie is about. It’s about survival in such a cold, harsh environment, and how two people deal with the weather. One of them has to do all the hard work, and the other struggles to stay awake, and because we don’t know what her name is, because of the language on her I.D. This is such emotional work from Mikkelsen and Smáradóttir.
The movie is also beautifully photographed. We’re gazing at the cold arctic environment with the snow, ice, mountains, and frozen rivers. I know we just suffered from a frozen chill in various parts of the country, but it still feels refreshing.
Director Joe Penna and his co-writer Ryan Morrison have both delved into the motives of the two main characters and their surroundings. And they also make it thrilling without any Hollywood cliches. The “Miss Bala” remake just learned that lesson the hard way, or so I believe. The thrills come when polar bears and rock traps threaten the man, and when he struggles to get help from the nearest helicopters.
Again, “Arctic” convinces us of this environment and these situations, and it does a radiant job expressing them. And one more thing: try not to get confused with Mikkelsen’s other movie “Polar.” That movie was stupid; this was smart.