A stranded explorer trudges toward hope.
Joe Penna’s debut feature is “one of the best movies ever made about a man stranded in the wilderness,” said David Ehrlich in IndieWire.com. Mads Mikkelsen stars in the nearly wordless film as an arctic researcher-explorer who has been surviving alone in the fuselage of his crashed plane, eating raw fish and carving into the snow to create a giant “SOS.” When a rescue helicopter tries to land and also crashes, our hero decides he must put the injured lone survivor on a sled and attempt a trek out of the wilderness. Plenty of excitement lies ahead, including a polar bear attack that “puts The Revenant to shame.” But what makes Arctic gripping is that it “never cheats or takes shortcuts.” We learn almost nothing about the Mikkelsen character, said Alissa Wilkinson in Vox.com. “He’s a blank slate, an avatar for mankind,” and Mikkelsen, the onetime Bond villain, must hold our attention mostly by conveying steely resolve. Arctic is slow, and its “one-step-at-a-time honesty” might not excite many moviegoers, said Owen Gleiberman in Variety. But “that’s what’s good and, finally, moving about it. It lets survival look like the raw experience it is.”
Aviron Pictures/AP, NBC Films, Helen Sloane SMPSP/Bleecker Street ■