Review: Survival tale 'Arctic' chills to bone

Mads Mikkelsen stars in raw film that's like a frozen 'Cast Away'

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Mads Mikkelsen in "Arctic."

All is lost for Mads Mikkelsen in "Arctic," an ice cold survival film about the will to live in the most hopeless of situations. 

Mikkelsen is Overgård, stranded in the Arctic Circle after his small plane crashes somewhere in Iceland. We don't know who he is or the life he left behind; we meet up with him when his plane is already down and he's several days into his routine of trying to catch fish, radio for help and above all, stay alive.

Hope arrives one day when he spots a helicopter on a rescue mission. But the helicopter gets caught up in the winds of a brutal storm and crashes to the ground. In the wreckage, Overgård finds a young woman (María Thelma Smáradóttir) whom he rescues and attempts to nurture back to health. Now he's not just surviving for one, he's surviving for two. 

Co-writer and director Joe Penna works within a minimalist frame and keeps the elements of his film to the bare essentials. Overgård is mostly alone in vast, frozen landscapes; a polar bear in the distance gives him pause, and the bear shoots him a look as if to say, "I'll be seeing you around." 

Overgård barely speaks; he has maybe 20 lines of dialogue the whole movie. But you feel his struggle, his determination, and his hope that he will eventually be rescued off of the block of ice to which he's been damned. 

"Arctic" has elements of "Cast Away," "All is Lost" and "127 Hours," raw survival films that pit man against nature. Mikkelsen gives his all in a performance that never wavers or rings false; he taps into something primal, and around him the film finds its will to live.



Rated PG-13: for language and some bloody images

Running time: 97 minutes