CREDIT: Helen Sloan SMPSP/Bleecker Street

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, María Thelma Smáradóttir

Director: Joe Penna

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Bloody Accident Images and the Effects of Extreme Cold

Release Date: February 1, 2019 (Limited)

Arctic is like a cinematic version of The Oregon Trail, that old computer game standby, insofar as it’s all about getting from point A to point B, with lots of deadly peril along the way. It also resembles many-generations-ago gaming in its decidedly no-frills nature. Mads Mikkelsen plays Overgård, a man who has been stranded alone in the title tundra for an unspecified period of time. There is hardly any dialogue because the only other credited character is a woman (María Thelma Smáradóttir) in a helicopter crash who is barely, if at all, conscious for most of the running time. The video game comparison does not track completely, as you never really got to know anyone in your Oregon Trail party, beyond all the diseases and snake bites they succumbed to. Arctic, on the other hand, does allow you to spend plenty of time getting up close and personal with Mikkelsen, but in fact you don’t get to know him that well, because he’s too busy just surviving.

Your appreciation of Arctic will depend a great deal on whether or not you believe minimalism is the best approach for this type of story. It certainly has its advantages, as the sheer imposing scope of the setting ensures that director and co-writer Joe Penna does not have to do anything fancy to convey the truth of Overgård’s situation. I enjoyed watching Arctic about as much as an afternoon spent playing The Oregon Trail. But I appreciated it much more deeply for its technical astuteness and efficiency. And it’s also now perfectly clear, if it wasn’t already, that Mads Mikkelsen is ideal company no matter what the occasion.

Arctic is Recommended If You Like: Survival Stories, Snow, Minimalism

Grade: 3 out of 5 SOS’s