Film Review: “Arctic”

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by: Joe Penna
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins
Bleecker Street
Every once in a blue moon a film comes along that reminds us how truly spectacular cinema can be and replenishes our passion for the artform. The stark Danish adventure/drama “Arctic” happens to be such a film. With a gripping man-versus-nature story that makes “Cast Away” and “All Is Lost” look like cocktail parties, “Arctic” is as impressive as the unyielding icy bleakness which constantly threatens to overwhelm the lone survivor of a plane crash somewhere in the Arctic Circle.
Shot entirely in Iceland, “Arctic” does not waste time with a lot of background exposition to its story, co-written by Brazilian director Joe Penna whose previous directorial work includes the 2015 shorts “Turning Point” and “Beyond.” Instead it thrusts us into an already precarious, ongoing struggle for survival by a man named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen). He survives each day by sticking to a strict routine that includes maintaining a giant SOS carved into the snow, generating enough electricity with a hand crank to operate a distress signal, and catching fish through ice holes.
We don’t know if he is the pilot of the intact, yet charred plane he uses for shelter, but we do know that whoever was with him died in the crash. Despite all his hardships, Overgård preserves a steely resolve to stay alive and an unyielding belief that help will come. His hard work appears to pay off when his distress signal is picked up by a rescue helicopter. However, Mother Nature denies his victory with a vicious storm that causes his would-be saviors to crash nose first into the unforgiving ice below. Overgård stabilizes the helicopter’s badly injured co-pilot, but the new situation pushes his abilities to keep them alive to the limits. Ultimately, he is faced with a terrible choice of whether to stay put or risk traveling across the Arctic wasteland to find salvation.
Whether it’s playing the nemesis of a Marvel wizard in “Doctor Strange” or being a falsely accused teacher in “The Hunt,” Mikkelsen has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to delve into any role thrown at him. One of the most underrated actors in cinema today, Mikkelsen is a force of nature himself in “Arctic.” He attains a level of intensity that Tom Hanks and Robert Redford were never able to achieve in their respective films as he musters emotions as raw as the fish his character eats. Our hearts beat as his does with jubilation when it appears that he is going to be saved and they sink to the depths when he bottoms out in despair. It’s all done with pure emotional power performed flawlessly by Mikkelsen.
For his first attempt at directing a feature-length motion picture, Penna does his craft proud with a fluid story that offers a few nice twists and plenty of dramatic suspense. Overall, “Arctic” is a must-see that any cinema lover should put on their to-do list even if the film’s setting makes us feel like winter is never going to end.

3D Blu-ray Review "IMAX: To The Arctic"

Narrator: Meryl Streep
Directors: Greg Macgillivray
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Running Time: 40 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
3D: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

When it comes to nature documentaries, who can turn them down. They are like a car crash you just can’t look away.  “To The Arctic” looked so cute with those little polar bears. The film is enjoyable but really when it comes down to it…it is just WAY to short.  I understand that IMAX movies used to run 40 minutes and that was the norm but now there are new 3D films in IMAX every week.  40 minutes really restricts this film to of getting a chance to spread it wings or paws in this case.  It feels rushed and right when it gets good it ends. I would have loved to seen this expanded for 90 minutes, like the Disneynature films.  I also felt the same way about the last IMAX film “Born To Be Wild”. Unless you are a 3D junkie like myself, I would catch this program when it airs on cable or rent it.

Official Premise: “To The Arctic” takes you on a never before seen journey through the power of the IMAX lens into the lives of a mother polar bear and her two seven-month-old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness they call home. Captivating adventurous and intimate footage brings you up close and personal with this family’s struggle to survive in a frigid and dynamic environment of melting ice immense glaciers spectacular waterfalls and majestic snow-bound peaks.

The film gets it voice from three-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, who narrates this documentary.  The film was shot on location in the Arctic Circle in the IMAX 3-D format. I thought the 3D was very impressive.  It adds quite a bit of depth to the Arctic and makes you feel like you are right there with them.  The film is written and edited by Stephen Judson, who worked on the award-winning “Everest”.  My favorite part of the film though has to be the music.  The score is very well done by Steve Wood and contains seven songs by Paul McCartney.  There were two songs from his span with Wings including “I’m Carrying” and “Big Pop”.  There is Cirque du Soleil’s “LOVE” version of “Because”. Mr Bellamy from his 2007 album “Memory Almost Full”. “Calico Skies” and “Little Willow” appear from his 1997 album, “Flaming Pie”. Lastly there is a nice cover of “Maybe I’m Amazed” in the end credits.

Warner Brothers really delivers a very impressive release here with “To The Arctic”.  The release comes as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet digital streaming copy.  But wait there is more, the film was released in 3D in theaters, so there is a bonus Blu-ray 3D included as well.  I enjoyed the 3D version quite a bit but luckily it is one of those films that can be enjoyed either way without loosing too much. I have to admit though, I really loved the underwater scenes in 3D. Very breathtaking.  The 1080p transfer looks very sharp within its 1.78:1 aspect ratio, I would have loved to see them keep the IMAX aspect ratio for this Blu-ray though. The DTS-HD Master Audio works perfectly with the music, especially Paul McCartney’s tunes! You will find yourself turning the volume to 11 and jamming out!

The special features are good and to be honest I am impressed they even had extras.  But with a documentary film, I am always interested in the behind-the-scenes. There are a four featurettes included to round out this release. The first is “A  Polar Bear Family” and takes a closer look at the stars of the film.  “To The Arctic with Meryl Streep” is a chat with the actresses and narrator of the film.  “The Challenge of Filming in the Arctic” is exactly what it sounds like.  I give these guys a lot of credit for their work. The last is called “Welcome to the Arctic”, which takes us on a journey through the frozen part of our world.  Lastly, there is a trailer included. I would have loved to see a few of these available in 3D as well since they were obviously shot in 3D like the film itself.