Against the Ice, 2022.
Directed by Peter Flinth.
Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joe Cole, Charles Dance, Heida Reed, Gísli Örn Garðarsson, Sam Redford, Diarmaid Murtagh, Ed Speleers, Frankie Wilson, and Nick Jameson.
In 1909, two explorers fight to survive after they’re left behind while on a Denmark expedition in ice-covered Greenland
In the early twentieth century Arctic, a man is hurriedly sledding back to safety. Upon returning to his shipmates, we learn that his name is Jörgensen and that the harshly better weather has left him with frostbite all over his toes. The aftermath is unpleasant but sufficiently makes a case for the dangers that await all in Against the Ice.
Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau turning in his best performance since Game of Thrones, also co-writing the script alongside Joe Derrick, which is an adaptation of Mikkelsen’s real-life book documenting this true story of important discovery and survival) is the captain of this vessel, determined to find a cairn from a previous Danish expedition that likely has proof tucked away inside that an island strip belongs to Denmark and not the United States of America trying to seize the land for themselves under the guise that there is no ownership.
As such, Mikkelsen is prepared to throw caution to the wind and get right back out there in the frigid cold searching. Unsurprisingly, none of the other shipmates are jumping up and down to the selected. However, there is a mechanic who was not part of this expedition in the first place (he was picked up at Reykjavík and hired for maintenance) ready to put some faith in Mikkelsen. Following that, Mikkelsen gives Iversen (Joe Cole) some pointers about taking orders, managing the sled dogs, rationing food, and staying warm. It’s also worth mentioning that Against the Ice does not sugarcoat the reality of the situation, opting not to shy away from upsetting behavior regarding how these dogs are treated, especially when they become useless and disposable. There is a harrowing and bleak authenticity at the core of this perilous quest made all the more engaging due to the captivating Arctic scenery from cinematographer Torben Forsberg.
The journey is broken up into sections, prioritizing the key events, which usually turn out to be a dance with death. Everything from sliding accidents to lost supplies endangers the mission. A polar bear makes its presence known at one point, giving Against the Ice a bit of a The Revenant vibe. However, as tensely executed as these sequences are, Against the Ice simmers due to the two-men-show chemistry between Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole that gradually redefines the perspective of confidence and doubt, both for themselves and in each other. Further playing off this dynamic is the occasional snippet of Prime Minister Neergaard (fellow Game of Thrones staple Charles Dance) also doing some second-guessing of providing additional funding, doubting if they will survive. It’s hard to argue against any of this feeling cliche, but Nikolaj Coster-Waldau terrifically plays the calm and collected mentor that’s projecting his fears before descending into madness.
Unfortunately, the second half of Against the Ice transforms into a different kind of survival entirely, and one decidedly more generic even if director Peter Flinth is trying to repurpose some of these tropes cleverly. The transition is rushed and, worse off, causes much of the remaining story to skip through sizable passages of time without much of an impact. Against The Ice works best when depicting the unsavory aspects of survival for trekking through the Arctic and the search for the cairn. There are brief flashes of dark humor in the second half that should have been more prevalent. Some tacked on bits involving Mikkelsen weighing and balancing what he values more, Denmark or his partner back home he was about to marry, are thinly sketched. Anyway, the ice doesn’t completely break, as the performances are enough to keep things afloat during the second half cracks.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com