Against the director of the film Ice: Peter Flint
Cast of the movie Against the Ice: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joe Cole, Charles Dance and Heida Reed
Rating of the film Against the Ice: 2 stars
It is the beginning of the 20th century. Cartography is still in its primitive state, and mapping hitherto unexplored lands is a laborious and often dangerous undertaking, especially in the polar regions, which were then the scene of geopolitical rivalries between Western powers. Explorers and adventurers ventured into the remotest parts of the world and claimed the land for their governments and were rewarded in return.
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Netflix’s historical survival drama Against the Ice, directed by Peter Flinth, is set against this backdrop. If it is not interested in geopolitical conflicts, it remains in the background and affects the actions of its protagonists.
The story is about a real Danish follow-up expedition to Greenland, led by explorer Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). The purpose of Mikkelsen’s expedition was to recover the bodies of explorers from an earlier expedition, simply called the Denmark Expedition, and to recover possible evidence (archives, journals, maps, etc.) that would invalidate the claim. United States over Greenland.
When Mikkelsen and his ship’s crew are stranded in frozen water, he asks for a volunteer from among his men to accompany him on the journey ahead. None of them do, their opinion being colored by the fact that Mikkelsen is overzealous for the mission and would rather lay down his life than walk away unsuccessfully. To be fair to him, that was exactly the request of brave, patriotic men serving their country.
In the frozen wastes that make up most of Greenland, it’s not just the cold that kills, though that’s usually enough, as many well-equipped expeditions have vanished without a trace for centuries. An explorer must also make do with the largest terrestrial carnivore, the polar bear, for whom humans are frighteningly easy prey.
A neophyte named Iver Iverson (Joe Cole), who isn’t even part of the permanent crew, finally volunteers, after reading about Mikkelsen and his exploits in the arctic region. He is, not to emphasize it too much, a milksop, and blissfully unaware of what his idol is really asking for – his life.
But Mikkelsen, somewhat reluctantly, agrees and they venture into the unknown. So far, so good. As expeditions to the polar regions were customary at that time, this one encountered misfortunes. After a series of mishaps all of their sled dogs die (dog lovers might want to look away from time to time), they somehow manage to get back to the ship and find it in broken down and turned into a cabin, and no sign of the crew.
By right, Against the Ice should have been an engaging tale, but it’s unenthusiastic in almost every way. The script desperately wants the viewer to endure vicarious hardship in such adverse weather and terrain through its two characters, but we never really see any real suffering beyond the madness and delirium that strikes one. from them later. Even an assault by an adult polar bear, which should have seriously injured the victim, is ignored as if it were trivial.
The days pass like seconds and there is hardly any change in the appearance of the characters. Mikkelsen’s beard is a bit ragged, but his hair looks like he just had his hair done – no kidding.
In Game of Thrones, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was given one of the show’s most complex characters, who didn’t subscribe to the standards of Westrosi society but was essentially a good man. In Against the Ice, Mikkelsen, except for a few moments when we catch a glimpse of the man below, is your typical grizzled adventurer. Coster-Waldau does his best to make it work, but it’s hard to get rid of the feeling that the character could have been so much more in a better storyline.
Iverson, on the other hand, is more believable with a defined character arc, if by the numbers, and Cole runs with it. The amateur explorer finds reserves of courage where he thought he had none, and is ultimately the savior of the expedition. Again, not terribly original, but at least here the writers (Coster-Waldau and Joe Derrick) got to work.
Against the Ice is a standard survival drama movie. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it has a lot to offer and especially for fans of survival dramas, there is a lot to love here. The cinematography, performance, pacing and almost everything else is competent. But that’s all the movie is: competent. It rarely rises above the level of mediocre.