Friday Film Review - "Arctic

Mar 8, 2019

If you’re looking for an option to savor these last few weeks of winter that doesn’t involve skiing, look no further than your local movie theater to catch a screening of Arctic – the latest man vs. nature drama.

Set and filmed in Iceland, Arctic follows the survival journey of Overgard, played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. We don’t have much backstory on Overgard, other than a few clues at the start of the film indicating he’s the solo survivor of a cargo plane crash.

How long he’s been stranded isn’t clear, but judging from the length of his beard and cooler full arctic trout, it’s been awhile.

The minimal dialogue in the film leads viewers to piece together details based on Overgard’s daily routine, which involves digging up volcanic rocks to create an elaborate SOS message in the snow, ice fishing, desperate attempts to reach help via emergency radio, and waiting to be spotted by a passing plane.

Eventually, a helicopter spots Overgard. And while all signs point to a successful rescue mission, the helicopter succumbs to the harsh arctic winds and crashes just feet away from Overgard. The pilot is killed, but a badly injured surviving passenger, a young woman played by Maria Thelma Smaradottir, is taken in by Overgard.

Overgard’s survival journey now gets more complicated. Discovering a map among the remnants of the downed helicopter, Overgard calculates the civilization is a just a four-day trek away. Towing his mystery passenger by sled, Overgard sets out on an ambitious trek, dotted with impassable mountain ranges, rugged terrain and a polar bear or two. Again, the minimal dialogue makes viewers work hard to learn more about the injured young woman, while also learning a bit more about Overgard.

I’ll stop here to avoid a spoiler, but be prepared to be fully engaged and focused on the film throughout its 98 minute run time if you want to walk away with any understanding of the story.

Arctic is the feature debut of director and co-writer Joe Penna, also known as YouTube celebrity MysteryGuitarMan. Penna got his start making commercials, music videos, short films and eventually Arctic, which was an audience favorite at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Arctic is rated PG-13 for language (yes there are a few choice words uttered by Overgard) and some bloody images – so beware if you’re squeamish like me. Arctic is now playing in select theaters and will be screening at Park City Film March 29-31.