By the time Arctic begins, Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) has been stranded in the desolate arctic for an undetermined amount of time and has adapted surprisingly well to his situation (eg he’s created a system for catching fish, he’s transformed his downed plane into a shelter from the harsh elements, etc) – with the narrative eventually detailing Overgård’s attempts at making his way to what he hopes will be civilization. It’s clear immediately that Arctic, which contains very little spoken dialogue, benefits substantially from Mikkelsen’s gripping, masterful performance, as the actor manages to convey mountains of context just from the subtle changes in his facial expressions (eg Overgård experiences what’s clearly euphoria while eating something that isn’t raw fish). Filmmaker Joe Penna, working from a script cowritten with Ryan Morrison, delivers a narrative that’s predominantly focused on the protagonist’s low-key yet sporadically gripping exploits, and it’s clear, certainly, that Arctic grows more and more absorbing as it progresses as a result of the escalating stakes and increasing danger. (It’s worth noting, on the other hand, that the movie isn’t quite able to keep the level of tension high throughout, which does ensure that Arctic suffers from a somewhat erratic pace.) By the time the engrossing third act (and note-perfect final shot) roll around, Arctic has certainly confirmed its place as one of this new century’s more memorable tales of extreme survival.

*** out of ****

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