Against the Ice places a surprising true story set in the arctic against the emotionally-distant script. The result is a bit of a predictable drama set in North Eastern Greenland. While not awful at all, I saw such potential in this survival concept that I became frustrated it is not quite able to rise to the challenge. The fact that the lead performance from Game of Thrones actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is so terrific makes it even more frustrating. Back in 1909, two explorers embark on a journey to find signs of the vanished expedition. In their efforts, they wish to discover unknown parts of the world, but stumble into a scenario in which they must fight for survival.
As I must add this to every review where it pops up, a dead dog alert trigger warning must be issued. Early on, the mission’s Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen warns his comrade, Iversen (Joe Cole, Peaky Blinders), not to get attached to the dogs guiding their sleigh. This turns out to be a tragic precursor for an intense sequence in which Ejnar and Iversen attempt to rescue a dog left dangling off the side of an icy cliff. In the sparse tense moments in Against the Ice, director Peter Flinth successfully pulls the audience into the action, or tugs at the heartstrings.
The battle against hunger pangs and fatigue seems to be the duo’s largest hurdle. It is this aspect that leads to an annoying fatal flaw—the ghosts of the pasts haunting our two characters are shallow. The emotional connection is utterly null and void, lacking the depth to carry the weak characterizations. I would happily trade all the mirages for further violent polar bear attacks, or story-bonding over an intimate fire between our two leads.
Perhaps my standards were too high, but Against the Ice lacks a missing, vital ingredient to thaw its chillier flaws. This story of survival feels stretched too thin, with minimal character work. I began to feel as if I had lost my own sanity while trying to keep up with Ejnar and Iversen, as the action annoyingly grinds to a halt each time we leave these two. Seeing the politics behind the rescue was the same issue I had with the otherwise-excellent 2015 Matt Damon film, The Martian. As it arrives to Netflix soon, I see nothing that will help it rise to the top in the overwhelming ejection of their monthly releases, beyond two strong performances.
Against the Ice screened at the 2022 Berlinale Film Festival, and spreads its chill over audiences everywhere when it debuts on Netflix on Wednesday, March 2nd.