A minimalist tale of man-versus-nature, Joe Penna’s debut feature immerses us in the daily routine of Overgard (Mads Mikkelsen), the survivor of a cargo-plane crash in the Arctic (actually, Iceland).
How long he has been stranded in the frozen wastes is uncertain, as we join his story in media res, but his missing toes suggest it may have been for some time. He is surviving, but has the blank look of an automaton, a man merely going through the motions of being alive.
Mikkelsen is all rugged vulnerability as he wearily trudges through storms and calf-deep snow, facing obstacles as best he can and becoming more weathered by the day.
Long shots reduce him to a black speck against the endless whiteness of a landscape, both flat and mountainous, that is at once awe-inspiring and unforgiving, fear-inducing and beautiful.
Arctic is about the will to survive, but also, in the abstract, by stripping everything else away, the human connections that give life purpose and meaning.