Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Against The Ice ★★★



Director: Peter Flinth

Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joe Cole, Sam Redford, Ed Speleers, Gísli Örn Garðarsson

Release: March 2, 2022 (Netlfix)

Based on a real-life expedition by renowned Danish explorers Ejnar Mikkelson and Iver Iversen, Against the Ice is an absorbing tale about the effects of isolation. The Greenland-set film stars Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole. Over the years, there have been a large number of extraordinary tales about explorers and the treacherous journeys they’ve embarked on. Against the Ice, directed by Danish filmmaker Peter Flinth, is nothing revolutionary, it’s quite by-the-numbers. However, it is somewhat refreshing as almost every scene is shot on location, in an actual icy tundra as opposed to being shot on a blue or green screen. There is a reality to the film, thanks to this, that helps to ground it in a believable way which enhances the emotions on-screen.

The film follows experienced Arctic explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) on a mission to the North of Greenland in an attempt to prove that the US has no claim on the land. Dragged along with Mikkelsen is Iver Iversen (Joe Cole), a clueless mechanic, who unknowingly sets out on an endless journey with little rewards. Along the way, the two explorers face off against frosty winds, hunger and multiple polar bears. Although their story is known, primarily among the exploration communities, this film offers an insight into the importance of their expedition and the struggle they went through in order to survive, cut off from the outside world for years.

Against the Ice is quite the thrilling ride, the story begs for such suspense and immersion. However, despite how much the film and its actors try, it can’t capture a true sense of isolation akin to something like The Lighthouse, which goes above and beyond in its representation of isolation. At times, the film breaks out into heightened melodrama as the two butt heads as they start to see visions. It’s here where some of the film’s authenticity falters. Additionally, the aforementioned naturalness of the film’s cinematography, due to filming on location, is broken by a couple of, obviously, CGI polar bears. Even though the attacks are full of suspense, the shaky polar bear models threaten to rip spectators out of the intensity of the scene.

The chemistry between Coster-Waldau and Cole is rather exceptional, they play off of each other in a fun, yet dramatic way. Coster-Waldau’s Mikkelsen is the serious explorer, determined at-all-costs to bring back vital information from the barren North of Greenland back to Denmark. Whereas, Cole’s Iversen is an engineer, who agrees to partake in the journey because he’s a fan of Mikkelsen’s escapades. Cole plays Iversen’s naiveness in a charming and endearing way, this rubs Mikkelsen the wrong way as it’s quickly established that he is somewhat of a hindrance to his mission. This relationship is what keeps this, somewhat, overly extended film churning. A good chunk of scenes could have been cut to streamline this Greenland-set expedition film, but it’s understandable wanting to prolong the runtime given the amount of years the duo were isolated for.

The film manages to maintain a good rhythm, it’s clear that every department is on the same page. It’s quite impressive, in terms of visuals, sound and, especially, editing given the sameness of every shot and location. Almost every image in Torben Forsberg’s cinematography is drenched in a hazy mix of blues and whites. The occasional splash of orange and red in the fires break up the film’s consistent visual palette. Talking of shifts, there are many edits scattered throughout the film’s runtime that showcase the events unfolding in Denmark. On paper, showing the parallel events sounds like a great, albeit archetypal narrative tool. But, here, it lacks any purpose beyond just emphasizing their isolation and it never came across as believable and actually interrupted the immersion of the main storyline. Charles Dance shows up, gets his paycheck and leaves.

Against the Ice has many rewarding qualities, but it’s faults threaten to throw the film off course. Although it gets dangerously close, it never quite crashes off course, thanks to the pairing of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole. There is a good chance that this film splits audiences, especially, as there are so many inherent expectations for a film set so firmly in its genre. It successfully portrays the explorer’s isolation in a believable manner, despite it not being nearly as relentless and crazed as something like The Lighthouse. It goes for more of a subjective approach to their growing delusions, allowing us to see what Mikkelsen sees as he daydreams of his love. Perhaps, if his dreams were kept inside his mind and we were forced to observe his actions, from an objective perspective, the two character’s isolation would feel all the more intense. Nevertheless, the Netflix film is worth a watch, there is certainly lots to be admired.

Just For You