Netflix film “Against the Ice”, which was released on March 2nd of this year, works best whenever it focuses on the coldly grueling plight of two real-life figures at the center of the story. As watching their despairing struggles on the screen, I often wondered whether I could survive if I were in such a harsh situation like theirs, and that often made me chilled and terrified during my viewing, though I also frequently observed several glaring weak aspects including its rather ponderous narrative.
The movie, which is based on Danish polar explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen’s memoir “Two Against the Ice”, opens with the ongoing expedition led by Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in 1909, and we gradually gather the main purpose of this expedition in North-Eastern Greenland. Two years ago, a Danish expedition was sent there for getting a definite topographical evidence to disprove the claim of the US government on North-Eastern Greenland, but this previous expedition only resulted in the death of all of the expedition members. Because it is quite possible that these ill-fated expedition members might have left anything good enough to be used as the evidence against the claim of the US government, Mikkelsen and his expedition members have been trying to locate the dead bodies of the previous expedition members, but there has been much progress yet, and they come to have more doubt on whether they can really succeed in the end.
Nevertheless, Mikkelsen refuses to give up because he found an important clue during his first search attempt. When he discovered the frozen body of one of the previous expedition members, there was also a journal, which says that the previous expedition members did accomplish their mission before their eventual death. Their records are kept at a certain spot out there, and all Mikkelsen will have to do is going to that spot along with anyone willing to accompany him.
However, not so surprisingly, many of his expedition members are not so eager to join him due to what Mikkelsen’s right-hand guy suffered and endured during his previous search attempt. In the end, a lad named Iver Iversen (Joe Cole) volunteers mainly because he simply wants to be more useful, but he is seriously inexperienced compared to most of expedition members, and that is pretty apparent to everyone else as he clumsily tries to prepare for Mikkelsen’s second search attempt on the next day.
Anyway, Mikkelsen has no choice but to depend on Iversen, and Iversen is determined to help and support Mikkelsen as much as possible, but, of course, he soon comes to realize how much he is unprepared for their long and difficult journey across North-Eastern Greenland. Besides the harshly cold weather which they have to endure every day and night, they also have to be constantly careful about a number of possible dangers such as glacial crevices hidden under snow, and Iversen later comes to get one particularly painful lesson as warned in advance.
After several weeks later, Mikkelsen and Iversen finally arrive at that certain spot (Is this a spoiler?), and they are excited to find what they are searching for, but, alas, it subsequently turns out that they are going to suffer much more and longer than they thought at first. While there is still some possibility of survival, their situation becomes more despairing day by day, and we are not so surprised when Mikkelsen becomes increasingly unhinged despite his desperate efforts on keeping things under control for him and Iversen. As he often dreams of his longtime lover, his sense of reality gets deteriorated bit by bit, and he eventually finds himself frequently talking with her in his mind.
In the meantime, the movie also pays attention to what is going on in Denmark. Two of Mikkelsen’s expedition team members try to convince their government to help finding and then rescuing Mikkelsen and Iversen, but their request is flatly rejected because almost everyone in the country believes that Mikkelsen and Iversen died. Although he briefly appears in a few scenes in the film, Charles Dance smoothly steals the show as a stern and unflappable government minister, and that says a lot about what a wonderful veteran performer he really is.
During its last act, the movie comes to lose its narrative momentum as trudging from one expected moment to another, and I often found myself becomes impatient during this part, but I still admired its commendable technical aspects. Director Peter Flinth and his crew members including cinematographer Torben Forsberg utilized many different real locations in Iceland and Greenland, and their result shown on the screen looks pretty vivid and realistic to say the least. Sure, they surely used CGI in several key scenes including the ones involved with polar bear attack, but the icy sense of remoteness and hopelessness surrounding the two main characters of the film is always palpable to us, and that is the main reason why the movie can hold our attention to the very end.
In case of the two main performers of the film, they look convincing as going through one hardship after another along the story. While Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who also wrote the adapted screenplay with Joe Derrick in addition to participating in the production of the movie, ably supports the ground with low-key intensity, Joe Cole holds his own place well beside his co-actor, and they click fairly well with each other enough to compensate for their broad archetype characters.
In conclusion, “Against the Ice” does not bring anything particularly new to its genre territory, and it does not overcome its rather trite storytelling enough in my inconsequential opinion, but it is at least enjoyable to some degree thanks to its good production qualities and the solid efforts from Coster-Waldau and Cole. I am still hesitating to recommend it due to my considerable dissatisfaction with it, but I will not stop from you spending your free time on it, and I am sure that you will be not disappointed if you just want a competent adventure drama film to chill you a lot.