In the wake of crashing his small plane in the vast snowy desert of the Arctic, the pilot's hopes of rescue crash along with an approaching helicopter. He rescues the sole survivor, an injured female, and sets out on a challenging trek to the nearest emergency station, with the semi-conscious female in tow.
Review by Andrew L. Urban: I guess most survivor thrillers are kinda torture porn and Arctic is one in which the torture is dealt out by nature. The film's biggest asset is Mads Mikkelsen's understated performance, absorbing nature's outrageous pummeling across the ice and snow. His one explosive response is when a polar bear finds them sheltering inside a snowcave. It's a terrific scene. He is a terrific actor.
Burdened by the injured female, his torture increases by the hour, with weather and terrain conspiring against his attempt at rescue. In the film's least successful ploy, the injured woman drifts in and out of consciousness throughout, out of proportion to her nasty but not life threatening injury. She becomes a transparent dramatic device.
Spectacular landscapes and the veracity of the conditions help transport us into this harsh reality, egging on the pilot and his burden, fascinated by the details of his make shift survival. Joseph Trapanese's score is a creative and sensitive tool, while Joe Penna's direction is as restrained as Mikkelsen's performance.
The film's second least successful ploy is the ending, which poses the question: que?
Review by Louise Keller: A harrowing tale of survival, Arctic relies on visuals of crisp white snow and vast landscapes to lure us into the reality in which Mads Mikkelsen's pilot is stranded. Our attention is focused on Mikkelsen's expressive face as he does everything in his power to stay alive. What will he do next? What can he do? There is white snow as far as the eye can see. The challenges are huge as is director Joe Penna's challenge, to keep us engrossed.
Like Robert Redford in All is Lost (2013), this is a film in which the central character is reliant only upon himself to stay alive. The unknown factors keep us on edge - and intrigued - be it the success of catching a fish or completing the creation of an SOS sign in the snow to alert any passing plane of his plight. The advent of a helicopter does not bring the desired rescue, but more responsibility in the form of an injured girl.
Much of the action is repetitive - with Mikkelsen struggling up icy inclines and plotting his whereabouts on the map. This is not an easy role for any actor, where the dialogue is sparse and the emotional arc is internal.
Highlight is the terrifying scene in which a polar bear burrows his massive head into a cave in which the pilot and girl are sheltering. I gasped. It's an extraordinary moment and one in which the pure white fur of the massive animal blends with the surroundings for a moment before it opens its mouth to deliver a determined and spine-chilling roar.
Mikkelsen has enough charisma to keep us engaged, although I must admit the film lacks the kind of tension I craved, to make it an edge of seat experience.