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Against the Ice: A Chilling True Story

Written by Mike

Have you ever felt the cold? Not just the cold breezes you feel as the days grow shorter, but the real cold? The real cold burns your skin and bites at your limbs, saps your strength, and gnaws at your spirit. Great men have faced the cold and lost, but the setting of this story is early 20th century Greenland and the cold will not be our characters only foe as they struggle to survive in a fight against the ice. The film is an adaptation of the true story of Ejnar Mikkelsen as written in his book Two Against The Ice.

The year is 1909 and a Danish expedition led by renowned explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is tasked with retrieving a map of Greenland from a previously failed expedition. The map in question proves that Greenland is a single land mass and disproves the United States’ claim to North Eastern Greenland. After a failed attempt to find the previous expedition and its map leaves one of Mikkelsen’s veteran crewmembers Jörgensen (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) with frostbitten toes and no one else wanting to take his place, the rookie member of the crew, Iver Iversen (Joe Cole), volunteers to go with Ejnar on the daunting journey. Battling the elements and the wildlife the two explorers must find the map and survive the frozen wastes to ensure the success of their expedition.

This is one of those movies in which the slow pacing is a strength rather than a weakness. If you have seen films like All Is Lost or Jeremiah Johnson (both starring Robert Redford) you have an idea of what this film is like. Viewers are pulled in by the beautiful cinematography and the somber and heavy tone. I would say that Against the Ice is as much an experience about the viewers own introspection as it is a movie to be watched.

The film relies heavily on its characters and acting, and I am glad to say that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole (who take up most of the screentime alone in the wilderness) rise to the challenge! Much of its strength depends on viewers being drawn into the observation of their two characters as they deal with surviving the barrens of Greenland, and trying not to lose themselves in the process. Slowly hope fades as the two men begin to realize that the more time that passes the less likely it is that help will come to save them. Alongside the loss of hope is the loss of humanity as the men’s sanity (Ejnar’s in particular) starts to be drowned out by despair and isolation.

Overall, I rate Against The Ice as Above Average on my five tiered scale (Excellent, Above Average, Average, Below Average, Bad). This is a character drama, and the characters are done right. As the story went on, I found myself personally invested in their success and survival. The acting is excellent, and the cinematography is something to behold. This is a truly triumphant tale that Netflix has given us the opportunity to be a part of even if only in a small way.

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