In Theatres: 
Feb 15, 2019
Running Time: 
97 minutes

If you’re going to revolve the majority of a film around a single person who relies more on actions than words, it’s best you get an A-list actor capable of carrying everything on their own shoulders. Mads Mikkelsen is such an actor, and Arctic is perhaps his most challenging yet rewarding film that puts the actor front and center in an unrelenting story of survival.


Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) has become stranded in the Arctic Circle after his plane crashed. As the only survivor his daily tasks include making sure the giant SOS sign he dug through the ice is still visible, checking his homemade fishing poles for any bites, and hand-cranking the locator beacon he has in hopes that someone will eventually find him. After who knows how long of doing all these things, someone does eventually find him. But his hope of rescue is short lived when the helicopter crashes as well. He does manage to pull a young woman (María Thelma Smáradóttir) from the crash, but she is badly hurt. Now he must decide whether to stay put and continue to do what he’s done all along or venture out into the tundra and try to get to a guardhouse that is potentially days away.


What I like about Arctic is that it feels like a survival film that doesn’t dumb anything down. Mads Mikkelsen isn’t just some random guy who happens to find himself struggling to survive. The film opens with him already having been stranded for who knows how many days. He’s already devised a routine. He’s methodical in his approach, making marks on his homemade map of points he already used the locator beacon. You can also see by the ticks that he’s been doing this for days or possibly weeks. The film does a great job at showing you everything rather than telling you outright what is going on.


This is helped immensely by the fact that Arctic was filmed on location so what you see on screen really is Mads Mikkelsen in the freezing cold. He’s alone for the majority of the running time and uses few words so most of the story is driven by his actions. So much of the film focuses on the subtle movements in his face, and Mikkelsen delivers one of the best performances of his career. You can see his joy when something goes right or the absolute pain and anguish when something falls apart.


Arctic is a film that is as hopeful as it is brutal. It’s a story about survival in its simplest form and doesn’t get weighed down by things like a complex backstory or why these characters need to continue to push through. They want to live. Period. And that is the driving force throughout, with Mads Mikkelsen leading the charge. There’s nothing quite like it.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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