To guess what we would do if we find ourselves surviving a plane crash but in harsh, cold weather that’s looking for someone to freeze to death, is an easy way to begin any discussion. However, we shall never forget that different situations require a unique approach to be taken, while the special circumstance may dictate its own outcome. The premise of “Arctic” from co-writers Ryan Morrison and Joe Penna, who’s also the director, is old as the world itself yet it never stops to amaze us no matter how many times we’ve seen films like this, it still works.
A man named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) finds himself trapped in a serious dilemma after his plane crashes. Left alone in the Arctic, he clearly realizes that there are two ways to end his quest for survival – to fight or give up. While the first option could have provided a fatal and unfortunate result, the man leaves the only place he could stay as a refugee from cold and decides to embark on a journey of life and death, hoping to make out of a cold mountain alive.
Life and death have never been so inseparable the way they are in “Arctic”. The two started following Overgård over the span of an hour and a half journey, challenging him with the first opportunity that arises. While as a lone survivor he tries to figure out the best options available, he ends up finding another survivor, the young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir), which makes his task even more impossible to achieve. However, no matter how farther Mikkelsen’s character takes us, we somehow never stop believing in his abilities to find a way out even though it’s not going to be easy.
“Arctic” has limited dialogue. Mads Mikkelsen’s character is expressive enough to leave him alone dealing with a much more serious situation than, let’s say, talking to himself for no reason. That helps a lot to be more engaged throughout the movie, as it allows to play a different narrative in the mind apart from what “Arctic” has to offer. As we realize that the concept alone is hard to process in terms of its reality and relevance, it turns the entire experience into an intense journey for both Overgård and the audience that won’t be able to help him much to escape his forthcoming fate.
Overall, “Arctic” offers a simple story of dramatic survival, human dignity, and the importance of not losing one’s mind during an unforeseen but extremely difficult situation. Joe Penna as a first-time filmmaker delivers a fantastic job in capturing Overgård’s determination and his cool mind on what needs to be done as the first step to give a gift in the form of life.
That said, over the course of the film, its pace never slows down, does not miss the fire, and allows the story to unfold in a well-structured manner that will help you to play lots of different scenarios in your head, while one question will never stop circulating in your mind – how many more real-life plane crashes we know nothing about, and how many passengers lost their lives while waiting for help that never intended to come? The beauty of “Arctic” is that it raises tons of legitimate questions, one hopes we never have to ask. But one fact we should never doubt – whatever we do, no matter at what stage we are in life, there’s one thing we can’t afford doing – giving up.