'Arctic' movie review: a compelling tale about surviving in the frozen tundra

'Arctic' movie review: a compelling tale about surviving in the frozen tundra

Starring Mads Mikkelsen, of 'Doctor Strange' and 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story', this is essential viewing for fans of the survival genre

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Photo: Bleecker Street

Arctic is a gripping film about a man stranded in the Arctic Circle after his plane crashes, and his desperate battle to beat the odds against the punishing icy landscape.

The film wastes no time on the hows, whys, and whens, and goes straight to the protagonist Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen) digging a large SOS sign in the snow. He goes about his daily routine of finding water, fishing and sending distress signals, before returning to his makeshift camp – the downed airplane – at night.

Little is known about Overgard, how long he’s been stranded, how he ended up in this predicament, and his dead companions. It also becomes clear that none of these things matter in this incredibly harsh environment, as all eyes are on the lone survivor who must resort to his resourcefulness to survive.


Things take a turn for the worse when a helicopter appears and attempts to rescue him, but crashes. The pilot is killed and the only passenger survives. Overgard manages to bring her back to his plane, but she is badly injured and desperately needs medical attention. 

He decides to trek to the nearest base, which is several days’ walk from his camp. Hauling the young woman on a sledge, Overgard and his semi-conscious companion make their harrowing journey through vast frozen tundra during which they encounter a few obstacles, including a polar bear.

Kudos must go to Mikkelsen who single-handedly carries the film with almost no dialogue to work with. The Danish actor, who recently starred in Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, delivers a riveting performance of a “castaway” who has been cut off from the world. His realistic portrayal of the pain, loneliness, frustration and the freezing conditions Overgard has to endure, together with his indomitable spirit makes us root for him to survive the trek.

Shot in frigid Iceland, director Joe Penna’s film debut treats audience is treated to a stunning snowy landscape that also shows the dual side of Mother Nature: spectacular and terrifying at the same time. Breathtaking cinematography and visuals aside, Arctic boosts a compelling storyline, and is a must-watch for fans of the survival genre.

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