The Silence Of The North

Stars: Mads Mikkelsen and Maria Thelma Smaradottir
Director: Joe Penna
Scriptwriters: Joe Penna and Ryan Morrison
Composer: Joseph Trapanese
Cinematography: Tomas Om Tomasson
Armory Films/Pegasus Pictures
Rating: R for themed material
Running Length: 98 Minutes

Winter 2018-2019 has taken over most of the U.S. “Worst winter in 25 years” is what many weather forecasters are saying.  So, in 2019, we have two films concerning living in the frozen north.  One is “Arctic”, a film of survival and starring Mads Mikkelsen, who has portrayed a James Bond villain.  This film, being reviewed here, is a serious one, while the other winter film, “Cold Pursuit” and starring Liam Neeson, has a dark humor and is about revenge. “Arctic” is set near the Arctic Circle, while “Cold Pursuit” is set in Colorado. 

There have been survival films each year, and of late being on the ocean (Blake Lively in "The Shallows.")  There, it is water and heat and the sun beating down on you. In “Arctic,” it is bitterly cold, desolate and in the middle of winter, which in this location is about 11 months of the year. Mads Mikkelson stars as Overgard, who is stranded somewhere near the Arctic Circle, Throughout the film, we gather little information about him, except that he has gone through a plane wreck and become adept at survival by fishing.  A rescue helicopter comes for him, crashes, the pilot is killed and the co-pilot, a woman, survives, but in a coma. What to do? One, gather supplies, two, figure out whether the woman will live or not, and then three, decide to make a run for it (with her played coma-like throughout by Maria Thelma Smaradottir.)  So, we have the taking of supplies, bringing along a comatose woman and trying for a goal that maybe, can’t be reached.  By this time, the feet of the audience are cold and hands too chilled to reach for popcorn. 

Director Joe Penna (YouTube) decided on this theme for his first feature film. The film was actually shot in Iceland and the photography by Tomas Om Thomasson is wonderful. All is white and from a distance, you can glimpse two dark figures, one pulling the other.  No sounds and you are alone---really alone---with your thoughts.  This reminds you of historical film footage of Polar explorers of olde, who dragged large wooden sleds over ice mounds to try to reach that mystical North or South Pole. One feels guilty, here, sipping one’s soda drink.  

As the comatose woman, the actress doesn’t have to do anything. The lead, Mikkelsen, moves with determination and you can see it on his face and eyes that he will go forward, no matter what.  With little dialogue, Mikkelsen, gives the audience a strong performance and it must have been grueling to film this movie.  It is an interesting concept for a first movie, and one wonders what director Penna is planning next. The audience will be waiting. 


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner