[Screen It]

(2019) (Mads Mikkelsen, Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) (PG-13)

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Drama: The lone survivor of a small plane crash in a remote section of the Arctic does what he can and must to survive.
It's been several weeks since H. Overgĺrd (MADS MIKKELSEN) was the lone survivor of a small plane crash somewhere in a remote section of the Arctic. His daily routine consists of catching fish via ice fishing, carving out and keeping clear large SOS letters in the snow and rocks, and using a crank radio beacon in hopes of contacting any craft that might be passing somewhere nearby. He seems to luck out when he gets a return signal from a small chopper that briefly hovers over him before losing control and crashing nearby.

The pilot perishes in that crash, but his unnamed wife (MARIA THELMA SMÁRADÓTTIR) survives, albeit unconscious and badly wounded. Overgĺrd manages to drag her back to the wreckage of his plane where he tends to her wound and realizes his situation has become more complicated than before. From that point on, and with a new topographic map he's found in the chopper wreckage, Overgĺrd must decide whether to stay put or set off on a long and arduous trek through hostile environs in hopes of reaching a remote base listed on that map.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
While a good movie can be released at any point of the year and still connect with viewers, some films just seem better suited for certain times of the calendar. For instance, you can obviously release a Thanksgiving or Christmas based movie in April, but something just seems incongruous in doing so.

That said, sometimes releasing a film that's somehow heavily weather related at the opposite time of year gives viewers a sense of temperature relief. If you're stuck in the middle of some bone-chilling, mid-winter freeze, a movie set on a steamy tropical isle could be just what the doctor ordered. Conversely, if you can't be outside for a minute or two without returning soaked through with perspiration, a movie featuring snowy environs can be good for the soul and psyche.

With that in mind, I think "Arctic" is being released at the wrong time. The tale of a man who's the sole survivor of a small plane crash somewhere in the most desolate and remote part of the Arctic in the dead of winter, it makes one feel cold. As in remind me never to fly over either pole in the middle of winter cold.

Speaking of that, and following the old storytelling advice of starting one's tale as far into it as possible, writer/director Joe Penna and co-writer Ryan Morrison don't do the typical bit of showing the usual Robinson Crusoe-esque moment of how the protagonist got into his frozen pickle predicament (which, by the way, would be a great name for a band).

You know, along the lines of Tom Hanks' absolutely, positively not gonna be there overnight plane crash in "Castaway." Nor does it eventually get around to showing a flashback to the accident as occurred in "All Is Lost." Instead, the story begins weeks after the crash and well into the protagonist's daily routine of simply trying to survive.

In a way, it's like a frozen version of Redford's lone man lost at sea tale, or a cast cut in half take on "The Mountain Between Us." That flick also featured a plane crash in snowy remote environs and the old Clash decision of "Should I stay or should I go?" But while a woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) does show up in this flick, her semi to fully unconscious physical state prevents any sort of romance from developing (thank goodness). Instead, it serves as just another complication in our main character's attempt to somehow make it out alive of a particularly grim scenario.

With very little dialogue, the screenplay can't be that long and thus some viewers may fear their attention will freeze over like most everything in the film. Thankfully, and despite being a man of few words, Mads Mikkelsen makes for a commanding presence on the screen and Penna and everyone else involved manage to keep us engaged and caring about the plight of this unfortunate man as things play out over the nearly 100-minute runtime.

I just wish it had been released in the middle of the blazing hot summer when more viewers might be enticed to enter an air-conditioned theater to see a film that will likely chill many to the core. It will have that same effect now, but the timing will only add to the bone-chilling misery of the story and its setting. "Arctic" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed January 28, 2019 / Posted February 8, 2019

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