Arctic is a film with a simple premise – after a failed rescue attempt that results in a helicopter crash, a man stranded in the Arctic becomes the saviour of his own would-be rescuer. With minimal dialogue, sprawling landscapes, a continuous sense of isolation and Mads Mikkelsen’s intimate performance, the film is entirely satisfying in its execution.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is its sense of verisimilitude and realism. Everything on-screen has a great sense of authenticity, thanks to the scenery shot on location in Iceland. Mads Mikkelsen’s performance is very understated, calm and collected. However, moments of both great joy and despair give Mikkelsen a wide range of emotions to convey, most often without speech, that he delivers beautifully. The lack of dialogue is also substituted with clear and effective visual storytelling. The tone and atmosphere are supplemented by the film’s subtle score, which, much like the film, is simple and subdued.The 98-minute runtime keeps the pace brisk and the characters are almost continuously on the move, with each scene propelling the plot forward in some way. The lack of filler is crucial for this type of film, and as a result, the film is never boring. It all coalesces into a riveting finale, with the built-up tension and urgency reaching a satisfying conclusion.
Unfortunately, a scene preceding the finale includes a character decision that makes little to no sense and feels contrived as a means of arriving at the finale. While this doesn’t compromise the film or said finale, it does lead to a sudden loss of immersion in the narrative, especially considering the character’s previously established intelligence.
With regards to the film’s visual presentation, disappointing the shots rarel y have the colour and depth to take full advantage of the scenery on display. This is a real shame as a more dramatic colour palette would better accompany the film’s tone and sense of isolation. That being said, the shot composition does partly compensate for that, as some visuals are still truly breathtaking. Ultimately though, richer colours and a slightly less naturalistic presentation could have made the film more visually memorable, especially since it relies on visual storytelling. This criticism is likely a nitpick that most viewers will neither notice nor care about, however those more inclined to analyse cinematography may find this an issue.
Despite fixation on those two issues, the film is overall very enjoyable and thrilling. Thanks to its simple and well-executed premise, a central character whose plight is easy to sympathise with and a tightly paced runtime, Arctic is an easy recommendation to virtually anyone looking under two hours of investing entertainment.
Image: Jim Barton via geograph.org