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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Arctic (2019)  

Review: written June 2019

Committed performance and stunning landscapes still left me oddly unrewarded

dr no

Mads Mikkelson has said this was the most difficult shoot of his career, and it’s not hard to see why. Throwing you straight in to the film’s scenario, we find ourselves in the eponymous snowy wasteland, with Mads in full survival mode. It is clear his plane is crashed, and he is using all his knowledge and talents to create a routine which will enable him to survive. When events challenge this routine (I won’t spoil the turn of events, even if the trailer does) and he has to make some difficult choices, survival becomes more and more difficult.

It’s grippingly directed and has undeniable moments of shock and suspense.. and yet the overall feeling is still rather flat. Individual scenes have pace and tension, the score is effective while not being intrusive, and Mikkelsen really increasingly captures the haunting look of a man slipping from someone irresolute in their will to survive, to someone who has to face the possibility that nature might win. In terms of characterisation, we quickly become impressed by his resourcefulness, which increasingly looks like a positive side effect of being more than a bit OCD. Beyond that though, who is he? How did he learn so much about survival? What drives him to survive and get home, does he have family? We learn nothing, not even what caused him to end up there, with the scope of the movie covering just the obvious strong will to survive, and the mechanics of doing so. It’s a choice, using purely the drama of the situation without letting backstory get in the way – it makes for a lean film – but ultimately as spectacular as the scenery was and however committed the performance, it left me a bit flat.

Well-made and with some memorable moments, this unfortunately fails to differentiate itself from an increasingly big catalogue of survival movies. I’m not saying don’t watch it; just don’t expect anything ground-breaking.





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