Filmed in Iceland and the directorial debut of Joe Penna, Arctic has very little dialogue but that manages to be an asset rather than a liability.
Arctic focuses on a man named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) is stranded in the Arctic Circle following a plane crash and awaits rescue. Finding refuge in the body of the downed plane, he has a daily routine that includes checking fishing lines for fresh food, running a distress beacon, and drawing a map of his surroundings. One day, it appears he might finally be saved when a helicopter shows up. Alas, it is not to be.
The helicopter crashes and Overgård rushes to investigate the scene. He soon determines the pilot is dead and his passenger, a young woman (Maria Thelma Smaradottir), is gravely injured. Overgård searches the helicopter and finds rescue equipment, food, and a map of the area. He studies the map and notices a building that he estimates is about two days away. Overgård sets off to the building on foot, pulling the injured woman on a sled the entire way. Whilst on the journey, the two encounter a number of obstacles and he fights the elements every step of the way.
The lack of dialogue forces the audience to focus more on the visual aspects of the film and really think about what must be going through Overgård’s head throughout the ordeal. Arctic is a very raw production and full of grit. It provokes a lot of thoughts about human nature and the will to survive under extremely difficult circumstances.
That said, it’s an extremely slow film and tends to drag up until the last part. The ending was also too open-ended for my taste and a more conclusive finish would have been preferable.
I give Arctic three and a half out of five stars.