After going through a list of all of the certified fresh movies on Rotten Tomatoes (it’s updated live) for this year, I came across the movie Arctic. I enjoy a good Man vs. Nature movie here and there so I added it to my board. Later I found the movie on Amazon and added it to my watchlist.
This weekend I realized I was 6 movies behind being on track for 100 reviews for 2019 so I decided to have a weekend film festival and watch all 6. Arctic made that list and was the first movie I watched on Saturday.
The first thing I said was that Mads Mikkelsen must have had a thing for the cold this year as Arctic marks the second movie of his I’ve reviewed with an icy name. Polar being the other. In Arctic, Mikkelsen has survived a plane crash in the arctic and is trying to wait for help. However, as his situation becomes more and more desperate, he has to make a decision between continuing to wait or trying to make a dangerous journey to find people.
Arctic does not have a ton of dialogue as you’d imagine. Yet Mikkelsen manages to be engaging throughout. You have some of the typical moments from these types of movies but the stakes do increase at every turn. By the end you’ll feel like you were stranded with him which means it does its job.
Dives straight in
One thing that I do like about Arctic is that it doesn’t waste any time setting up the situation. By the time the movie starts it’s clear that Mikkelsen’s character has been stranded for some time already. He has a system in place and alarms to tell him where to be and when. You can tell he’s aware of what he needs to do to survive in this situation which is also a nice departure.
Often in this type of film we are seeing a person that we are supposed to identify with in being lost and having to figure it out on the fly. Realistically that person is not going to survive so knowing he is experienced gives us more reason to think he will. When things start to go badly it makes it affect us that much more because we believed in him.
Though Mikkelsen knows what he’s doing, his downed plane is not exactly designed to keep him warm out in the open like this. He’s still battling extreme cold and needing to be creative to find food. Water is less of an issue since he can simply melt the snow but there are other factors as well.
If he gets caught in a snowstorm that could kill him. If he’s discovered by a wolf pack or a polar bear either one could kill him. As the movie goes on we learn that there are other threats as well. Even when we get a glimpse of hope, mother nature shows up to remind us who is in charge and makes his situation worse multiple times. (Doing my best not to spoil anything.)
The Tense Moments
Mikkelsen (his character’s name is Overgard though it’s not really important since no one ever says it.) has to make a series of tough decisions which really make the movie in my opinion. You have to watch him study his options and try to make the right call, knowing that the wrong one could mean the difference between life and death.
Some of these decisions work out for him but not all of them do and you live and die right with him. Arctic makes great use of the deafening silence and when things happen suddenly it snaps you out of the feeling of comfort they may have created in a window of time.
My favorite thing about Arctic is that it is realistic. They don’t make Mikkelsen out to be some action hero. He doesn’t get a ton of lucky breaks. He didn’t learn how to do something on the fly that saves his life. He’s using his knowledge to survive. He makes the most of his resources and then sometimes he makes mistakes.
He shows human emotions at the appropriate times and isn’t overly dramatic when for the sake of the camera. I’m a huge fan of movies where the characters behave like real people and Arctic does that.
If you like Man vs. Nature movies like 127 Hours for example, then you should add Arctic to your list. I personally enjoyed it straight through to the end and I also appreciate that they leave the very end up for a bit of interpretation. Will you be blown away by this one? No. However you will be placed in survival mode for about an hour and a half as you figure out how to survive the Arctic tundra.