A one-man show can only end in two different ways. The first is complete disaster. A waste of time that surprises audience and critics on how it even made it past the planning stages. The second way this could end is if the one-man performance is somehow charismatic enough to engross an audience for an entire feature length run. Thankfully, Arctic falls into the latter category and the strengths of Mads Mikkelsen as a performer are solely to thank.
Mikkelsen is a superb actor, and pairing him with director Joe Penna seems to work rather well. Shots that comprise of nothing but the snow, a crashed plane and one man struggling to survive. What sets Arctic apart so well from its contemporaries is that we’re thrown into the middle of an adventure, rather than given one start to finish. Overgård (Mikkelsen) is already firmly planted in the Arctic. He has a routine, he shovels out his SOS sign, fishes and tunes a radio signal hoping to catch a nearby helicopter or plane.
It’s a system that is only given a few moments of screen time, but one that becomes inanely dull but crucial nonetheless. Penna’s direction makes it seem oblivious to any sort of time frame, and it allows for the audience to get a bit creative with how long they think Overgård has been out in the Arctic, and how he managed to get there in the first place.
Mikkelsen is superb in a near wordless role. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of his work, even when he’s stuck in trash like Polar. He’s always a suitably enjoyable leading performer, and somehow worldwide acclaim has eluded him somewhat. His work in Arctic certainly branches into some of the better work he’s given us over these past few years. In Arctic we manage to see a timeless struggle, set in stone in just a short running time.
If you’re wanting to give Arctic a watch, but still aren’t quite sure what to make of it, then I’ll leave you with this thought. Arctic is just All is Lost but instead of Robert Redford struggling to survive on a boat, it’s Mads Mikkelsen struggling to survive in the snow. They’re more or less the same movie, but speak so clearly about the type of message they’re trying to send. Arctic is the pessimistic view that All is Lost shies away from, and it’s the incredible work of Mads Mikkelsen that brings it all together.