‘Against the Ice’ Review: A Survival Adventure Lacking Tension
The age of exploration was an exciting one. It was an age when men pushed themselves to the brink of collapse. Men risked their lives in order to find one landmark, one piece of land that could tell them where they were and what the world around them looked like. It was a dangerous job, one that called for a different sort of man. It called for men who were filled with obsession, and men who lacked any sort of life outside of exploration themselves. These obsession-based tales work very well as books, movies, or TV shows. That’s why the media always comes back to them, one way or another.
Against the Ice is one of those tales. The movie is directed by Peter Flinth and stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Joe Cole. The film tells the story of two explorers in 1909, as they explore Greenland in search of proof that the land is whole and not divided by a channel. Of course, it is easier said than done when the land itself pushes against them and their mission.
Survival movies, at their core, are character studies. The genre pushes the characters to the extreme, and the entire story develops out of how these characters react to their situation, revealing who they really are. And so, characters, like in any other piece of fiction, are the key to getting audiences to care about a particular movie or book. Against the Ice, offers plenty of character but somehow misses the mark when it comes to creating an atmosphere of dread and tension around a situation that for sure should be stressful.
Peter Flinth doesn’t really show a lot of visual style on his own, but he doesn’t really need it, thanks to some extremely beautiful locations. As icy and hostile to human life as they are, the location really manages to drive home the point that these types of places are in no way welcoming to human life. And yet, we keep pushing against that notion every day of our lives.
Flinth does really well when it comes to conversations, though, creating a sense of intimacy that feels kind of cozy against all the ice that surrounds the characters, it feels quite nice.
These conversations are the best thing about the movie, and they are made stronger thanks to the great performances by both Waldau and Cole. Waldau is, of course, famous thanks to his run as Jaime Lannister, the complicated but always fascinating character in the Game of Thrones TV show. It is no surprise the man can act, and he goes through every single emotion during the movie, but there is always a level of control that reflects the character’s personality quite well. Towards the end of the movie, there’s a whole section dedicated to his inner thoughts, and Waldau makes the best out of material that feels tacky somehow.
Cole, on the other hand, is also famous for being a supporting character in another great show. Peaky Blinders. Here, Cole goes the total opposite of his character in that show. The young actor has been very successful in having a career that shows just how amazing his range as an actor is. Here is no different, creating a character that, while simple-minded, has plenty of depth as someone who wasn’t really prepared for the situation at hand.
These two performers are the core of the film, and it is worth a watch just for them. However, towards the end, it becomes clear that the movie doesn’t offer very much in terms of memorable scenes or thrills. So, it might be hard to judge someone if they forget about the movie just a couple of days after watching it. This feeling is also enhanced by some weird choices in the editing. The movie feels more like sequences patched together one after the other than a single whole, flowing movie. Maybe this is done to show the passing of time and the disjointed point of view of the main characters, but it also makes for an odd viewing experience. There’s no momentum from beginning to end.
This lack of tension makes you wonder very little about how the characters will get out of this situation. Especially because the movie jumps to some scenes outside the point of view of these two characters, and during those scenes, their destiny is basically revealed to the audience before time.
The action bits are well shot, and the performances are also good, but they lack energy. There’s no danger, other than the danger of becoming boring. Against the Ice never goes into the boring territory, but it almost does it too many times for its own good.
Against the Ice offers good performances, beautiful looking vistas, and it puts the spotlight on a fascinating time in human history. Sadly, it might not be as memorable as it should be, and many will forget they saw it almost immediately.