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Survival Drama Fails to be Compelling

Arctic explorers (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joe Cole) struggle to survive in their quest to claim Greenland for Denmark in Against the Ice.

RVK Studios

Against the Ice tells an incredible true story of survival in a desolate and unforgiving environment. Based on the memoir by Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen, two intrepid arctic explorers braved a vast wilderness to claim Greenland for Denmark. They confronted the fierce elements, polar bear attacks, starvation, and crushing isolation. If only the film adaptation captured their harrowing experience with a more gripping touch. Against the Ice plods along with a matter-of-fact approach that feels, pun intended, cold, and stale. The severity of their situation is never in doubt. But the film fails to snare the viewer with a compelling narrative.


Against the Ice was set initially in 1909 at the southern base of Greenland. Captain Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the crew of the Alabama are frozen in the sea ice. He is leading an expedition to search for and finish the work of a previous explorer whose team disappeared two years earlier. The stakes were high for Denmark. The United States claimed Greenland on the basis that it was two distinct land areas. Mikkelsen’s goal was to prove that Greenland was indeed one land mass. He would have to travel hundreds of miles north to accurately map the country.

Ejnar’s first foray ends poorly for a crew member. He returns to the ship and asks for another volunteer to accompany him. The crew dislikes their captain and thinks another attempt is suicidal. Ejnar gets a partner from a surprising new member. Iver Iverson (Joe Cole) was a mechanic that the Alabama picked up after engine trouble in Iceland. He’d never been to the arctic and had no experience with sled dogs, but was seeking a grand adventure. The men embark north in March with two dog teams. Their goal was to return to the ship by August or risk being trapped for another year. Nothing went according to plan. Ejnar and Iver become unlikely companions in a desperate effort to survive.

Tremendous Obstacles They Face

Against the Ice ticks every box to show their struggles. The bitter cold and wind are constant. They are beset with early incidents due to Iver’s lack of experience. The poor sled dogs are worked to death. Then fed as meat to the remaining pack as dog food dwindles. We keenly understand the tremendous difficulties and obstacles they faced.

The film loses interest with the interactions between Ejnar and Iver. The dialogue feels strained as the journey stretches on. The film jumps forward by months at a time. Ejnar begins to lose his mind from regret. He hallucinates seeing a former lover (Heida Reed). These scenes needed to be more dramatic. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole are good actors. But they have middling chemistry together. Iver responds to Ejnar’s delusions like a punching bag. He reacts to the downward spiral with little emotional response. Against the Ice needed greater balance to the characters in a two-man narrative.

I despise seeing animals suffer. Sled dogs were not pets. They were a resource used to death if necessary. Against the Ice accurately depicts this awful treatment. It’s tough to watch. The animal cruelty was the only part that really moved me. Against the Ice gives Captain Mikkelsen and Iverson their due respect. Everything else is a dull history lesson.

Against the Ice is a production of RVK Studios and III Kippers. It will have a global streaming premiere on March 2nd exclusively on Netflix.

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