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Arctic review - The Martian on ice | reviews, news & interviews

Arctic review - The Martian on ice

Arctic review - The Martian on ice

Mads Mikkelsen on peerless form as a deep-frozen plane crash survivor

Abominable snow, man: Mads Mikkelsen hears the call of the wild

This is the first feature film by Brazil-born director Joe Penna (previously best known for his hit YouTube channel MysteryGuitarMan), but you’d never have guessed. Clocking in at a crisp and chilly 98 minutes, Arctic is an immaculately controlled exploration of the theme of man versus the elements, assisted immeasurably by having Mads Mikkelsen as its protagonist, Overgård.

In a largely dialogue-free movie, it’s actions and landscape which define the development of character and story. We first see Overgård as he scrapes and shovels heaps of snow and ice to create a giant SOS signal which he hopes will be seen from the air, his own aircraft having crashed nearby (the plane carries the logo of Ayers Polar Cargo). The landscape, beautiful in a tragic sort of way, is a baleful wasteland of snow and ice, stretching away away to a range of white-capped mountains in the distance (it was shot in Iceland). The only sound, apart from boots crunching through snow, is the boom and roar of the wind.

Mikkelsen, wrapped in his fur-collared anorak and with a complexion like sand-blasted rhino-hide, is entirely convincing as a determined and self-motivated survivor, doing his best to keep the wilderness at bay with the limited resources available while trying to devise some means of escape. We can surmise that he’s an experienced outdoorsman from the way he has dug fishing holes through the ice, with pieces of metal dangling from poles which will alert him when a fish bites on one of his lines. He methodically stores his catches in metal containers sunk in the snow. His aeroplane is still intact enough to give him adequate shelter inside its fuselage. Penna’s sales pitch could have been “The Martian on ice” (pictured below, Penna and Mikkelsen on location).Time, however, is finite, as the regular beeping of the alarm on his wristwatch keeps reminding us. Overgård tries to make contact with base with his wind-up radio, but to no avail. But it seems his luck has changed when a rescue helicopter appears out of the swirling snow and makes a beeline for his position, only for the violently gusting wind to wreck its attempt to land. Suddenly Overgård’s situation has lurched from temporarily manageable to critical, since he now has a badly injured woman he must try to take care of. The way he carefully saves her photograph of her husband and child shines a sudden, revealing shaft of emotion onto the frozen scenery.

Though he reassures her that help will surely come soon, we can tell he’s not convinced. His dilemma is whether to stay put or make a hazardous cross-country trek to an outpost he’s found on his map, somehow bringing the semi-comatose patient along with him. The consequences will include a startling encounter with a hungry polar bear whose menacing presence was announced early on by a giant footprint, more than one near-death experience, a treacherous encounter with a hidden pothole and some agonising scenes in which the exhausted Overgård realises the futility of struggling against the force of gravity. Despite the absence of dialogue, it’s a remarkably eloquent performance from Mikkelsen, who manages to convey shifting moods of hope, fear and despair behind his outward mask of dogged stoicism. He's an ice-man, but he's got soul.

Despite the absence of dialogue, it’s a remarkably eloquent performance from Mikkelsen

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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