I must admit that when I read the synopsis of Arctic (directed by Joe Penna), it reminded me of The Mountain Between Us, the Kate Winslet and Idris Elba film that graced TIFF in 2017: A plane crash; the impossible decision of whether to stay with the plane for shelter in hopes of rescue, or venture off in search of help; and trying to survive the extreme elements. Because of this, my expectations weren’t terribly high. I was concerned that this was a story line that had been done many times before but I eat my words!
Arctic was continuously engaging from start to finish. Mads Mikkelsen (Overgard) was triumphant, able to portray every emotion with barely any dialogue. Even with the silence, there were barely any dull moments. At only 1 hour and 37 minutes, the film was paced well, containing enough time to showcase the story in detail without dragging.
I loved the sound mixing in this film. From the beginning, we hear the harsh crunch of snow before we even see it. With such limited dialogue, the sounds in this film acted as a character of their own and contributed to the overall tone of the film.
Despite the film’s serious and life-threatening scenario, I found myself pulling a lot of hopefulness and inspiration from it. From the beginning, Overgard is unusually calm and focused on surviving until he can be rescued. He is a jack-of-all-trades character and utilizes his skills and wisdom to fish, maintain shelter, and attempt to orient himself. His calm and productive nature during this terrifying scenario is incredibly inspiring.
It was also extremely heartwarming to witness how an individual could be so caring to someone they don’t know. Without giving away one of the main plots, Overgard encounters a complete stranger who doesn’t even speak the same language. It would have been easier and more beneficial for Overgard to only look out for himself. This gave me a lot of hope for humanity and reassured me that at our core, we are loving people and are capable of great things.
On the other hand, the viewer experiences the stresses and heartaches alongside Overgard. Arctic effectively balances the real and raw aspects of the scenes while still keeping the tone a bit more family friendly (especially the scenes involving animals). Scenes with animals are inevitable in wilderness films, but I personally dislike scenes that portray animals being hurt. In these moments, the movie is respectful of its audience and I didn’t take issue with their execution in this regard.
This film had an overall mysterious tone. Who are these people? Where did they come from? What happens next? While I typically hunger for answers, Arctic left me satisfied with the unknown.