Director: Joe Penna

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir

Release date: February 1, 2019 


MadsMikkelsen is one of the best actors around but popularity may not be his thing.

He starred in the 2012 Danish drama “The Hunt,” where he played a sexually abusive kindergarten teacher. The movie did wonders for his career and by 2013, he was given the role of Hannibal for the NBC hit show. Since then he has found himself in a couple of blockbusters, such as “Doctor Strange” and “Rogue One.” His latest movie is a bit of a doozy. He stars in “Arctic,”  director Joe Penna’s first full-length feature film and a slow, drawn-out survival story.

When a man’s plane crashes in the middle of the Arctic Circle we see all that one must do to survive by adapting to the circumstance. Beautifully shot, we see Mads character searching for food and drawing maps. As the movie progresses, we can see the fear growing across his face, as it becomes clear he must make a decision: Stay in what’s left of his plane or go out into the harsh climate and look for shelter.

Things start to look up for the stranded man when he sees a helicopter. But, in keeping with the film’s grim outlook, the helicopter falls from the sky. As soon as there is any sense of promise, Joe Penna rips that away from us. Two Asians were inside the helicopter. The pilot died but the female passenger, severely banged up, managed to survive. Mads takes her in, feeling an obligation to keep her safe and alive.

This turn of events gives the film a second life. But there is no sign of hope. It’s getting colder and the language barrier between the two complicates efforts to plan. When the man finds a picture of the Asian woman’skids there is nothing more he wants to do than reunite her with the family. Penna shows us that he can direct a beautiful film. The characters elicit strong emotions and there are enough twists and turns to keep viewers interested.

Still, most will not enjoy “Arctic,” despite its scenic beauty and Millkelson’s phenomenal performance. It’s hard to feel for the characters. It wasn’t until we met the woman that I had a real desire for a rescue, and that was only because I learned that she had a family.As for the man? I felt nothing after his crash, probably because the lack of dialogue made it difficult to be emotionally involved with someone I knew nothing about.

Maybe a mix of flashbacks could have made a world of difference — something that gives the audience some sort of knowledge of the man’s life: Who he is, what he stands for.“Arctic”is a promising first full-feature for Pena. He’s already a YouTube star. Now he’s showing the movie industry that he’s here to stay. As for Mads Millkelson? Let’s hope this puts him on the map.

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