If you’re going to make what’s essentially a one-man film about survival in polar conditions, Mads Mikkelsen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is the man for the job.
Director/co-writer Joe Penna has enough sense to make that inspired casting decision, showcasing one of modern cinema’s most distinctive faces in the filmmaker’s debut feature Arctic, which economically and almost wordlessly conveys the Danish actor’s plight as plane crash survivor Overgård, and his attempts at being rescued.
The harrowing conditions and Overgård’s determination to stay alive established within minutes, the film strengthens its tense premise by adding a young woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) into the mix, albeit one that’s more of a burden than a blessing for our do-gooder hero.
Setting out into the unknown with a simple map as his lone guide, Overgård encounters a Job-level package of challenges amidst the gorgeous yet unforgiving snowy white surroundings, an impressive variety of problems that crop up both gradually and jump-scare suddenly.
With Mikkelsen’s stoic face and the ever-growing suspense crafted by Penna working in laudable tandem, Arctic builds to a breathless, make-or-break moment that’s destined to leave audiences exhausted yet satisfied.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at the Fine Arts Theatre
(Photo: Bleecker Street)