„Sigrast á kölnum klisjum og skilar sterkri tilfinningalegri reynslu,“ skrifar Ed Potton meðal annars í The Times um Against the Ice eftir Peter Flinth.
Men testing themselves in the frozen north — we’ve seen it umpteen times on screen. Yet by its end, this intense two-hander with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) and Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders, Gangs of London) has defied the frostbitten clichés and is packing some hard-won emotional oomph.
Co-written by Coster-Waldau (with Joe Derrick) and directed by his fellow Dane, Peter Flinth, the English- language film tells the true story of a Danish expedition to Greenland in 1909. Its aim is to prove that the northeastern part of the region is connected to the rest of the island and therefore not vulnerable to a rival American claim. The mission is led by Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen (Coster-Waldau), a haunted polar veteran who is well used to having icicles hanging from his beard. When the rest of the crew of his ship are too lily-livered to volunteer, Mikkelsen is joined by Iver Iversen (Cole), a keen, green novice who doesn’t know his Arctic from his elbow.
The plan is to drive two dog sleds hundreds of miles into the wastes, looking for signs of an ill-fated previous expedition whose members may have left proof of their success hidden inside a cairn. As someone says: “It’s like walking from Moscow to Rome looking for a stack of stones.” No wonder the others weren’t queueing up to take part. The pair must contend with polar bears, crevasses, meals of (spoiler alert) husky liver and wild-eyed hallucinations of beautiful women. “If only they could see us now,” Mikkelsen muses. “Probably best they can’t,” Iversen says, clocking his boss’s increasingly tramp-like appearance.
We have known for a while that Coster-Waldau is not just a pretty face. His scenes with Gwendoline Christie in Game of Thrones showed that he is particularly good at conveying companionship in bleak circumstances, and disdain melting into affection. Cole makes a fine foil, playing a character who is more of a klutz than many of his others, yet made of sterner stuff than he first appears. The scenery, meanwhile, is rapturous, and the script combines arduousness, gallows humour and hope in just the right proportion.