“Artic” is an attempt to boil it all down to one man struggling against nature.  As such, it discards every other avenue that might make a movie interesting.  There's no romance.  There's no snappy dialogue---in fact, hardly any talking at all.  There's no relational tension because the characters involved have different agendas:  there's only one agenda here, and that's to traverse to safety, despite all odds.

            We begin with one man, Overgard (Mads Mikkelson) digging in the snow.  It's rough going, because beneath the surface it's rocky, but he's obviously determined.  We see the crashed plane in the background.  We also see that he has spelled out “S.O.S.”  The trouble is, there's nobody else around to see it.  He's out in the middle of nowhere.  We're not told who he is, or why he was flying that little plane by himself, or how he managed to crash and survive.  But we do see him making the best of a bad situation:  he's rigged some fishing lines over an ice pond, and he's managed to catch a few.  But the radio doesn't work, and he's beginning to realize that no one is coming to rescue him.

            The one plot development is that he suddenly sees a helicopter, but it, too, crashes, and when he runs to investigate, there's only one survivor, an unconscious young woman (Maria Thelma Smaradottir).  Overgard tends her wound and tries to feed her some of his fish scraps, but she only occasionally regains consciousness, and then not for very long.  But there's something about her presence (and a map recovered from her crashed helicopter) that inspires Overgard to set out into the tundra in search of a scientific station.  He has to put the young woman on a sled, and he has to pull it, along with whatever supplies he can manage to scrounge.

            What follows is a very long trek over a frozen wasteland, where the only break in the monotony is to occasionally spot a polar bear.  Hopefully not too close.

            Will our intrepid adventurer manage to survive?  Will he save the young woman, as well?  Or are they doomed to succumb to the overwhelmingly hostile environment, and be victimized by the harsh elements? 

            The trouble is, the characters aren't well developed enough for us to care about them.  This film would hold any fascination only for the most ardent artic adventurer.  The rest of us will have a cup of hot chocolate and find another movie to watch.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association