There is nothing in movies quite as satisfying as a good survival film. We, as an audience like to put ourselves into the situation and figure out if we would be able to survive. We have seen survival films in all situations whether it is out at sea or on an island. Arctic takes place in the frozen tundra which seems like hell itself. Can this latest film be more than a generic tale we’ve seen before? Unfortunately, not. While having some redeeming qualities, Arctic falls into the trap of just not knowing what to do with its story and as a result, feels just as lost as its protagonist.
Arctic tells the story of a man who apparently had a plane crash in the Antarctic and has been trapped there since. One day, a helicopter crashes near him and instead of being rescued, he has to rescue the survivor of that accident. That’s it. There really is nothing else more to say about this movie, story-wise. A polar bear shows up, there’s a snow storm, but really there is nothing done with those elements and we get the same thing over and over again. You never feel like there is any genuine danger because the main character is so capable that there is nothing to worry about. Problem is, we don’t ever care for this character. We are given no name, how long he has been there, where he’s from, why he was flying over this tundra, or how he has survived so long. Had I not seen the crashed plane, I would just think he has been living out there on his own by choice. What we get is a boring story that repeats the same elements over and over again that loses the attention of the audience. We don’t need to see him go to sleep or check his rocks every single day.
The redeeming quality of this film is the star Mads Mikkelsen, and the cinematography from Tomas Orn Tomasson. Mads is a fantastic actor who has been consistently delivering great performance after great performance and receiving little to no recognition. The same can be said here. He is what keeps this film from becoming completely boring. In this film, Mikkelsen makes us feel the pain he is going through even when the story has a hard time showing that. He has the wear and tear on his face that resembles experience and someone that does not give up in what seems to be overwhelming odds. You believe he always has a chance because Mikkelsen is so believable in the otherwise unremarkable role. The cinematography here is also just gorgeous. We see beautiful shots of lavish landscapes of the snow and mountains. They make the most with what they are given to make the scenery feel like a character itself. There is this gasping overhead shot of a message our main character has drawn in the snow that is visually stunning. All the visuals here are astounding, even the polar bear who shows up for two scenes and does nothing of note.
In the end, Arctic is a film that suffers heavily from an uncertain direction and plays as an idea someone had but didn’t know what to do with. I never say an actor is wasted when they have a small role, an actor is wasted when they give a great performance in material unworthy of the performance and that is exactly what happens here. If you see this, see it for Mikkelsen’s performance alone but otherwise this one will fall into the vacuum pretty quickly.
The Verdict: 2.5/5 Stars