26th Apr2019

‘Artic’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir | Written by Joe Penna, Ryan Morrison | Directed by Joe Penna


Arctic, directed by Joe Penna, stars Mads Mikkelsen as Overgård (but you won’t really know that in the film) an airline pilot who’s thrust into a life and death situation after his plane crashes and he is stricken alone in the arctic wilderness, with little hope for rescue or survival.

Penna’s film is a broodingly intense and gripping ride with a formidable leading performance from Mikkelsen who utterly conquers the screen with little character and sheer emotive physicality, but the films repetitive nature and predictable story lets down an otherwise strong feature.

Undoubtedly the highlight here is the performance of Mads Mikkelsen. The film rests solely on his shoulders, of course, due to him being essentially the only character present, with the fact that this is arguably a silent film that depends on an actor’s ability to be exceptionally emotive without essentially any dialogue. A truly tough test for most, however, Mikkelsen strives with this task and delivers a wonderfully stoic captivating performance that engulfs the screen for the entire ninety-eight-minute running. It’s a running time that on paper doesn’t cause much distress, being relatively short and sweet, yet within the context of the film’s plot, it does drag with an incredibly slow agonising burn. Perhaps that’s the film intention from director Penna and editor Ryan Morrison to craft a sense of tension and atmosphere, but sadly ultimately the payoff is conventional and if anything, slightly underwhelming.

Artic also incorporates a twist of sorts by writers and editor, director Ryan Morrison and Joe Penna respectively that is conveyed in one of the most redundant and unnecessarily excessive sequences solely to cause more of this desired atmosphere. Sadly, it undoubtedly just confirms the filmmakers trying to stretch the run time out with the pacing rather than an integral plot sequence that pushes the characters any further in terms of an arc. But it doesn’t need to outstay its welcome whatsoever, it needs to be in and out in terms of story and plot, otherwise, it begins to recycle itself and that slow antagonising burn becomes an unintentional accessory of the compelling and slick cinematography by Tómas Örn Tómasson… and ultimately we’re just left with something pretty to look at.

Artic is released in the UK on may 10th.


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