Directed by Peter Flinth – Screenplay by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau & Joe Derrick.
Against the Ice first showed up on my radar some time ago. I mean, can you blame me? As a Dane, it is really exciting when a major streamer like Netflix decides to acquire a historical survival drama about Danes, directed by a Dane, co-written by a Dane, and so much more. Really, I could go on and on about all of the Danes involved with the production. And yet, it isn’t actually in Danish. This aspect was a little bit of a disappointment to me, but I can understand why some may have felt it should be in English. Unfortunately, while I do think this is a mostly ‘okay’ survival drama, the language wasn’t my only disappointment.
Peter Flinth’s Against the Ice is based on a novel by Ejnar Mikkelsen and it tells the true story about how, in the early 1900s, the Danish captain and explorer, Ejnar Mikkelsen (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) — along with Iver Iversen (played by Joe Cole), an engineer — went on a dangerous expedition in Northeastern Greenland to recover the records of the ill-fated Denmark expedition, which had set out to map Northeastern Greenland and investigate whether an unproven but hypothetical marine channel existed. However, Mikkelsen and Iversen were eventually stranded, and they now had to try to survive and keep their spirits up in the freezing cold.
Against the Ice essentially has all of the makings of a solid unrelenting survival drama. This is an amazing true story led by capable actors including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau who has amassed quite a following in his career, and it all looks real and cold from minute one (and the film isn’t afraid of frightening dog lovers). I would even go as far as to say that I think both Joe Cole and Coster-Waldau deliver fitting performances and are believable as these characters.
Unfortunately, I think the film ran into some problems with the way the story has been written and structured. Frustratingly, the film feels quite superficial in that it jumps from date to date and title card to title card without establishing context or a geographical understanding (it really could’ve used a stylistic montage or two).
It is, in a way, the kind of film that might’ve been better as a mini-series, which would’ve given Flinth and the writers more of an opportunity to feature Charles Dance who adds gravitas to the project whenever he is on-screen. I also think it would’ve helped the film tremendously if the B-story involving those who didn’t volunteer for the expedition had figured more into the film in its early stages. Lastly, I also think the film’s big polar bear scene is too quick, and too much of it happens off-screen. Now, that may have been for budgetary reasons but it certainly lessens its impact.
Ultimately, I still think it is a servicable survival drama, but Against the Ice is not as good as it should be, even though it had a lot going for it on paper. In that regard, it is a bit of a disappointment. However, I don’t think it is a dud. The story is fascinating and the actors are perfectly fine in it. There just isn’t anything here that you hadn’t already seen been done better in The Revenant, Arctic, or other films like them.
6 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.