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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Arctic is a survival thriller about a stranded man (Mads Mikkelsen) who must decide whether to take a dangerous trek to save an injured woman's life. It has moments of very intense peril and danger, as well as some blood: a stomach wound is stapled shut, and an injured leg leaves a trail of blood in the snow. A minor character dies, and there's a helicopter crash. A polar bear is involved in a jump scare, and a man catches a fish and whacks its head to knock it unconscious. Language includes two uses of "f---ing." Sex, drinking, drugs, smoking, and consumerism aren't issues. This lean, minimalist film is expertly made and rises well above many other examples of the genre; plus, it's all about solving problems and overcoming challenges.
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What's the story?
In ARCTIC, a man named Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) digs meticulously in the snow. He finishes, and viewers see that he has made a giant SOS sign, visible from the air. He then makes his way back to a crashed plane. He has apparently been there for some time and has a routine -- checking fishing lines, sending out a hand-cranked radio signal, sleeping. One day he gets a signal back, and a helicopter arrives. But due to high winds, it crashes. Overgård rescues an unconscious woman (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) from the wreckage, as well as whatever supplies he can salvage. He starts to attend to her but realizes that, in order for them both to survive, he's going to have to hike to the nearest rescue station. So he charts a course and sets out, pulling her on a sled behind him. But despite his meticulous preparation, many harrowing obstacles lie ahead.
Is it any good?
With a refreshing lack of exposition or padding, this lean, minimalist survival thriller rises far above the genre's usual examples, with much credit going to the sturdy, determined lead performance. The feature debut of writer/director Joe Penna and co-writer Ryan Morrison, Arctic avoids a lot of the genre's unpleasant hand-wringing by skipping all the stuff that leads up to Overgård's situation. There's no plane crash and no information about who he is, how he got there, or who else might have been involved. It jumps right in to the bare essentials, the core of surviving.
It's somewhat comforting to follow a character like Overgård, who's already quite smart about what measures to take in order to survive. We're in good hands, and we don't have to wait for costly mistakes to be made. The screenplay is compact and briskly paced, with an interesting array of unexpected obstacles. The movie still has its woozy moments -- as when frostbite begins to set in -- but Mikkelsen, who's perhaps best known for playing bad guys in Casino Royale and Doctor Strange, as well as TV's Hannibal, is commanding and immensely appealing. All in all, Arctic should make most audiences break out in a cold sweat.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Arctic's peril and violence. How did those elements of the movie make you feel? Were they thrilling, scary, or both?
What's the appeal of "survival films"? How are they entertaining? What do they teach us about ourselves?
Would you have liked to have more information about the character? Or is there enough here to tell the story well?
Find more movies that help kids build character.
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