Arctic tells the story of a pilot named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) who is stranded in the arctic circle. We meet Overgård when he has clearly been there for some time.
Clearly skilled in the arts of survival, he has kept himself alive in the relative safety of the wreckage of a plane crash (similar theme in Keep Breathing). After relentlessly doing all of the right things, he now faces a moral choice to risk everything to save the life of another.
That other person is a young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) who was also in the plane crash. Essentially he must decide to remain in the relative safety of the makeshift camp or embark on a deadly trek through the unknown to get them rescued.
For a short period of time, things are tough but manageable. Overgård has a daily routine and has figured out to make fishing lines for catching fish. He has etched a huge SOS into the snow so they can be seen and he has even managed to get a hand-cranked radio signal out into the universe.
But when the young woman in the crashed plane starts to run out of time, Overgård decides to bundle her up on a sledge and head off into the wilderness to find safety at a seasonal station.
Of course it is an epic journey fraught with danger that comes in the form of a hungry polar bear, the freezing cold, and his own battle with exhaustion and hunger especially when he has to continue on an injured leg.
But that is the whole point of a good survival thriller. It is one man's will to survive and the lengths that he will go to to save a young woman, rather than let her die.
Is Arctic Worth Watching?
It's fair to say that Arctic has virtually no back story to it whatsoever. We have no idea exactly how long Overgård has been there, nor do we know why he was there in the first place.
As far as a survival tale goes it does provide a truthful and believable situation but the lack of any detail leaves the viewer as lost as the main character.
Where this film does work is in the intensity of the actual events however, if you have seen the trailer, then you have pretty much seen it all. So as the film develops, the lack of any back story simply makes the whole thing a very long extended struggle.
That said, if you can overlook one or two small problems, Arctic is a solid cinematic experience and well worth a watch especially if you love the idea of one man surviving against all the odds on a deadly trek.
Just be aware that it can feel as much of a struggle for the viewer as it is for the main character.
Arctic Movie Cast
With virtually no dialogue and almost every shot directly focused on Overgård, Mads Mikkelsen really had to put in the performance of a lifetime to make Arctic work on any level.
As Nick Allen said, the movie “largely subsists on the on-screen muscle of Mads Mikkelsen”. And he's not wrong.
In fact, there are only three billed cast members – Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir (the young woman) and Tintrinai Thikhasuk who plays the helicopter pilot.
Arctic is the first feature-length film by the Brazilian filmmaker Joe Penna. He also wrote it with co-writer Ryan Morrison.
The camera work is incredible and he does well developing the intensity of the situation facing the characters as they try to survive in their makeshift camp. As a directorial feature goes, Joe Penna has done a very good job.
Is Arctic Movie A True Story?
No, Arctic is not a true story. It was written by Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison and is an international co-production between Iceland and the United States.
It was actually filmed in Iceland and took 19 days to shoot.