Arctic (2018)

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Stories of this type provide numerous difficulties for our protagonist or more, with the hope that they will be able to do much more than what is expected of them or what they are capable of in order to survive. Such is the case here as well, where Mikkelsen portrays Overgaard, a man who, after a plane crash, found himself in the wilderness of the Arctic. He finds himself in the relative safety of his improvised camp, but decides to take a walk into the unknown, with the intention of finding salvation…

We don’t know how long Overgard has been in the polar wasteland, except that we see the dashes he marks on the map. His days are filled with small rituals that somewhat speed up his time and at the same time keep him hopeful. We see that he is resourceful and capable of providing himself with a constant supply of food. However, we don’t know anything concrete about him, nor the reason why he came to the situation to survive.

This is director Joe Penji’s first feature film, and he started his career in 2006, uploading short films to the YouTube channel MysteryGuitarMan. In collaboration with screenwriter Ryan Morrison, it presents, relatively speaking, a simple plot, which very quickly becomes something more than a traditional story about survival. That something more is, among other things, the study of whether a person is willing to give up his humanity in order to survive.

I liked that the authors do not offer any details related to Overgard’s past, except for the small ones on the basis of which we draw our own conclusions. His life before arriving in the frozen wasteland is a mystery, and it nicely emphasizes that nothing related to him is important except what is happening right now. Some would say that the lack of private details can be a problem because of the identification with the protagonist, but I would disagree with them. Avoiding narrative traps and with the help of the great Mikkelsen, the authors manage to make us care about Overgard, an ordinary man whose life has become a series of difficulties and dilemmas in inhumane conditions.

Over time, an element is introduced into the story that makes this film not only about the details of survival, but also about its ethics. In this way, the quality of the film is additionally raised, and we will ask ourselves the question whether it is more correct to live alone or to die together with someone. Although the script is not particularly tense, especially since we know in which direction it is going (although we do not believe that it will actually get there), it has driving fuel in the form of Mads Mikkelsen and authors who understand the power of silence and know how to tell a story without too many words. An additional plus are the locations in Iceland and the sound, which is given a lot of attention.