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Laramie Movie Scope: Arctic

Survival in an unforgiving land

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 16, 2019 – This Icelandic-American film with mostly English dialog (some Danish, too) was originally released in Turkey in 2016, but was re-released this year in the U.S. and other countries, according to the Box Office Mojo website. The star of the film (and only two other characters have bit parts in it) is Danish actor Madds Mikkelsen, familiar to Americans for his role in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and other popular films, including “Doctor Strange.”

For the most part, this is a typical story of survival in harsh conditions, but there are some plot twists, and it is a well-made film. Mikkelsen is well-suited, like fellow actor Liam Neeson, for these rugged, stoic roles, and he shines as Overgård, the pilot of a downed plane somewhere in the Arctic Circle.

We don't see the plane crash in this film. As the film opens, we find Overgård settled in next to a lake, living in his largely intact plane. He survives on raw fish from the lake. He makes a daily pilgrimage to a nearby hilltop to signal for help with a crank-operated radio. One day, a helicopter answers the distress call, but crashes nearby in strong winds.

Inspecting the wreckage, he finds the pilot (played by Tintrinai Thikhasuk) has died in the crash, but a woman passenger (played by Icelandic actress Maria Thelma Smáradóttir) is still alive, though badly injured. After a few days, the woman is not improving, so he decides to try to take her to a refuge station some distance away, using a map and sled he found in the crashed helicopter.

The trip is long and arduous, with Overgård on foot, towing the mostly inanimate woman through snow. The two face a difficult mountain pass, stormy weather, bitter cold, and a hungry polar bear. This movie was filmed in Iceland, and polar bears are not native to that country, I looked it up. Not that it really matters, but it turns out that polar bears do arrive at Iceland periodically, drifting there on icebergs and ice flows.

One scene that I found puzzling has Overgård, while towing the woman on this long trip, finding a stone cairn he himself constructed earlier. It makes it look like he has become lost and is going in circles. That is not the case. See the Wikipedia article for an explanation of this scene, preferably after you've seen the movie. The movie has very little dialog, so explanations for this scene, and the identity of the woman, must be intuited from a few visual clues.

The ending of the movie is somewhat abrupt, but it gives an indication of the fate of Overgård and the woman that is not too ambiguous. This is a very lean, spare survival film that isn't entirely believable, but it is well made and well acted. In particular, it gives you a good sense of the forbidding arctic environment, and what it takes to survive there. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2019 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]