This tough epic of two lone explorers surviving in a brutal natural environment is surprisingly captivating. With grey-toned cinematography and a minimalist polar setting (filmed in Iceland), Against the Ice is effective at conveying the brutal conditions these early twentieth-century explorers faced.
"It's like we landed on the moon," one character notes, and indeed it looks that way at moments. It also feels as far away from civilization. The pair's bonding over a postcard image of a group of women becomes essentially their only connection with the outside world.
As a character study, Coster-Waldau and Cole communicate emotions, fears, and hard-earned complicity in understated ways. Iver is clearly wide-eyed at the opportunity to accompany a storied hero, and he slowly chips away at the captain's standoffishness.
A section where both men begin losing touch with reality is perhaps the least interesting, in part precisely because of the realism of the rest of the film. It's luckily not dragged out.
An ongoing theme involves the unveiling in the same years of the "unsinkable" Titanic. The message is that while that boat did famously sink, these men lived through unbelievably harsh conditions and isolation, and they made it through.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.