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It’s man against nature in this gripping drama
© Pegasus Pictures A man (Mads Mikkelsen) stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash must decide whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or to embark on a deadly trek through the unknown in hopes of making it out alive.
     Overgård (Mads Mikkelsen) has timed his survival to the second. The only survivor of an Arctic plane crash, he’s created a strict regimen ruled by the beeps of his wristwatch. Mornings he visits the burial site of his co-pilot to maintain the massive SOS he has carved in frozen snow. Afternoons he grapples up to the highest point he can to hand-crank an emergency transponder in hopes someone will hear him. Evenings he checks his ice fishing lines for a trout to make his raw dinner. 
      Survival must be won day by day. Overgård has already lost a toe, and a hungry polar bear haunts the plane where he shelters.
     The catastrophe forces Overgård to choose between his routine and a frigid trek for help.
      A great performance couples with beautiful scenery to make Arctic a compelling survival tale. First-time feature director Joe Penna wisely chooses to keep the story simple. We don’t learn about Overgård’s past; this is the tale of a man driven to survive. As we follow his mind-numbing routine, we share a story about isolation as well as survival.
      Like the Robert Redford film All Is Lost, Arctic eschews dialogue for a powerful form of minimalism that focuses on performance. 
     Thus this is Mikkelsen’s movie. Appearing in nearly every shot, he carries the film effortlessly. It’s a rare opportunity for a man whose severe features and high cheekbones typically relegate him to playing baddies and toughs in English-language films. 
      Despite a number of lost-in-the-wilderness clichés — there’s a crash, an injury, a bear attack — Arctic doesn’t feel stale. When the audience knows what’s coming, the tension ratchets even higher. I heard plenty of gasps and cries from the audience as Overgård battled the elements.
Great Drama • PG-13 • 98 mins. 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
      Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz) is a lonely girl who returns a purse she finds on the subway. Thrilled at the return of her bag, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), begs Frances to stay for dinner. Thus begins an intense friendship between the young woman and the lonely French piano teacher.
      Then the friendship turns to obsession.
      This tale of a crazy woman stalking the innocent is a cliché that promises to end in at least one catfight. Still, Huppert — who ranks among great living actresses — may elevate her material. 
      If you’re a fan of Single White Female, Fatal Attraction or The Roommate, this should be a safe bet.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 98 mins. 
Saint Judy
     Judy Wood (Michelle Monaghan) is trying to establish her law career while getting divorced and moving. Her first case is defending a woman claiming asylum from the Taliban. In America that’s a tough one. To win, she’ll need not only to argue persuasively but also to help change the law.
      A true story about how one woman changed the lives of thousands, Saint Judy is timely and Monaghan is capable. It is, however, the end of February, when studios are still burning off their low-quality films.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 107 mins. 
Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral 
     Madea (Tyler Perry) and her family travel to Georgia for a family reunion. When a death puts a damper on the festivities, Madea jumps into action, planning a funeral no one will forget. 
     Perry has grown as an actor and filmmaker over the years, but his Madea movies still skim the surface. Expect lots of broad humor, slapstick and funny voices. He still has issues with camera placement and joke timing, but that may not matter with the bombastic presence of Madea to distract from technical issues. 
      If you’re a fan of Perry’s madcap characters, this should be another entertaining romp.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 109 mins.