As a showcase for Mikkelsen’s commitment, it’s sometimes gripping...Mads gets to show an intense vulnerability for once. That’s worth seeing, though one wishes Arctic complicated its life-and-death ordeal a little more, or at least varied its obstacles. At a certain point, even raw, screaming endurance isn’t quite drama enough.
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Arctic doesn’t employ too many fancy tricks or frills: It’s just a simple, straight-ahead survival drama that lets Mikkelsen showcase his considerable acting chops, leaving viewers as impressed with his stamina as we are with his character’s.
Arctic works because it’s so believable. The movie never cheats or takes shortcuts.
Arctic is elegantly shot, crisp and unfussy, and seamless in its near-invisible use of digital effects, creating a persuasive you-are-there feeling that's rare in these days of flashy CG thrills. And it's the very old-fashioned movie magic of an expressive face that keeps you watching even as the storytelling ambles.
Mikkelsen hurls himself into proceedings. It’s a performance of intense commitment, one where every grunt and yowl feels agonisingly authentic.
Far from breaking the mould of the survival drama genre, Arctic nonetheless offers thrilling moments and entertains throughout, mainly thanks to Mikkelsen’s muscular performance as the grizzled Overgård.
The simplicity of the film is commendable, but it’s only in the last act where things finally come together and any kind of visceral thrills arrive far too late. Even Mikkelson’s on-screen talents can’t save an admirable yet stagnant film in dire need of a heartbeat.
There’s plenty to admire in this trim, nearly dialogue-free 97-minute drama, not least Mads Mikkelsen’s raw performance as a downed airman waiting for rescue in the Arctic wastes, and the widescreen majesty of the Icelandic landscapes that stand in for the film’s polar setting.
Penna works in what you might call a gratifyingly prosaic style. He doesn’t wow you (though the film, in its level way, is elegantly shot). But he doesn’t cheat you, either, so you come to trust the gravity of his nuts-and-bolts storytelling.
This is Penna’s debut feature, and he has set himself a high bar which he just about scrapes over, with Mikkelsen giving the entire project a super-strength leg up.