‘Against The Ice’ (2022) Review: A Conventional Survival Story with Unforgiving Elements

Peter Flinch’s Against The Ice is co-written by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (known for his role as Jaime Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones) and Joe Derrick, which recounts the true story of the 1909 Danish Expedition that attempted to disprove the United States’ claim to North-Eastern Greenland. Coster-Waldau plays Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen, who leads his Alabama crew to find a cairn that includes the notes of the previous explorers, Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen, Niels Peter Høeg Hagen and Jørgen Brønlund. The three members ultimately perished during the expedition in Greenland.

The movie begins as Captain Ejnar (Coster-Waldau) returns to his ship after searching for the cairn with his most experienced explorer on a sledge. His crew member has frostbite, so Captain Ejnar cuts off his toes while the rest of the crew holds him down. He is still determined to return and search for the cairn. However, none of the crew members wants to go since it’s risky. Iver Iverson (Joe Cole), an inexperienced ship’s mechanic and the only man on board to volunteer for the search. Along with his lead dog, Bjørn, and their months of supplies, Captain Ejnar and Iver begin their journey on the dog sledges. They set out on the thousands of miles of uncharted ice and faced many obstacles along the way.

Against The Ice could be described as a conventional survival story, but there are a lot of issues. The first half of the movie is promising. Captain Ejnar has to decide to bring an inexperienced crew member, let alone a mechanic, to join him on the job. Iver learns how to lead the dogs and the crucial truth of killing one dog to feed the other’s when supplies run out. It’s a gruesome reality for Iver, who adores Bjørn. Both of them face their first conflict when Iver’s sledge causes an accident and loses two weeks’ worth of dog food, supplies that are essential to their survival and Bjørn. Weeks pass by and supplies run out and they are nowhere close to finding the cairn. It’s a challenging experience, as the audience sees Captain Ejnar and Iver deal with the impending doom if the expedition turns into a failure. When the captain and his inexperienced crew find the cairn, they make their calm and hide Mylius-Erichsen’s note inside it. During their return to the ship, they faced perilous situations where their dogs passed out from exhaustion and died, food supplies were over, and finally, they walked back to the base camp. All of this happens in the movie’s first half, and there is a lot more to go.

When Captain Ejnar and Iver return to the ship, they discover the crew made a makeshift home from the parts of the ship and stored food to last for a year, and left them behind in Greenland. They spent the rest of the movie trying to service in the freezing temperature while fighting hallucinations. At one point, Captain Ejnar demands to go back to the cairn they hid Mylius-Erichsen’s notes because he saw a dream of the same polar bear destroying it. Erratic and completely out of his mind, Captain Ejnar and Iver begin their journey back, despite the mechanic’s protests to stay back, or leave a note behind, if a rescue team arrives from Denmark. Even though the landscapes are beautifully shot, there isn’t much beyond the repetitive nature of Against The Ice.

Regardless of these issues, Coster-Waldau performs an exceptional portrayal of the famous explorer. He conducts the strength and resilience by capturing the intimate and mentally fragile state of mind when he starts to hallucinate his lover, Naja (Heida Reed), back in Denmark. Those moments are shaky and emotional, as the audience sees Captain Ejnar fight these visions, unable to escape them and return to reality. This is Coster-Waldau’s best performance so far, and he does a brilliant job at that.

Against The Ice is a remarkable story of two men who survive hunger, ice and illness. Many unforgettable moments of tension and deprivation will surely grip the audiences’ attention. However, the slow and sloppy pacing ultimately makes the movie a bit shaky. Against The Ice shows the heroic effort of Captain Ejnar and Iver, as they fight internal demons and harsh weather conditions in Greenland. In the end, the result is a movie that pays tribute to two very important men in history.

Edited by: Andres Guzman

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