The Reel Review
After surviving a grueling, months-long expedition in 1910 to prove that Greenland is a single land mass that belongs solely to Denmark, Danish explorers Ejnar Mikkelsen and Iver Iversen find themselves stranded there indefinitely, in this Netflix historical adventure co-written by and starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones). The film is based on Mikkelsen’s 1955 memoir, Two Against the Ice.
The first half of the film focuses on the many physical hardships the Arctic explorer and his inexperienced partner faced on their perilous journey – unrelenting winds, frostbite, scurvy, dying sled dogs, starvation, polar bear attacks and falling through the ice into the frigid waters. The images of the two eating one of the sled dogs is not for the squeamish.
The second half of the film focuses on the explorers’ return to Greenland’s Shannon Island where they discover the rest of their crew is gone, having left them with a year’s supply of food and a hut made from wooden planks taken from their badly damaged, sunken ship, the Alabama. In addition to the ongoing physical hardships, they must now cope with the psychological trauma of wondering if they will ever be rescued. (They were rescued nearly two and a half years later.)
The best part of Against the Ice, which was shot in Iceland and Greenland, is the gorgeous cinematography and sweeping visuals of the unforgiving Arctic terrain. They truly are spectacular. But the impressive looking production fails to overcome a slow, painfully dry (albeit accurate) narrative and some weak polar bear CGI. Coster-Waldau and Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders) are both solid, with Coster-Waldau’s Game of Thrones co-star Charles Dance as the Danish government official skeptical about their chances of survival. Even for hardcore fans of Arctic exploration sagas, Against the Ice is a beautiful but only slightly above average adaptation.
• Ejnar Mikkelsen returned to Greenland many times throughout his life, in 1924 leading an expedition to start the world’s most remote settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit (formerly Scoresbysund, 2020 population: 345) in northeastern Greenland.
• In September 2010, the Danish Navy inspection ship Ejnar Mikkelsen photographed the still-intact cottage where Mikkelsen and Iversen lived nearly 100 years earlier. Mikkelsen died in 1971 at the age of 90, Iversen died in 1968 at age 83.
• Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has been married to Greenlandic singer Nukaaka Coster-Waldau since 1998. Nukakka was Miss Greenland at the 1990 Miss Universe pageant, the last time Greenland participated in the event. They have two daughters, Filippa and Safina.