Mads Mikkelsen stars in a pair of similarly titled movies that opened within one week of each other. Whereas the survival drama “Arctic” opened in theaters February 1, the action-packed thriller “Polar” hit Netflix on January 25. And I can confirm the latter is one of the most graphic motion pictures to which you will ever bear witness.
In the film, Mikkelsen plays an assassin named Duncan Vizla, who is ripped out of retirement when his former employer marks him as a liability to the firm. He soon finds himself back in the game, being hunted by an army of younger, faster, ruthless killers who will stop at nothing to have him silenced.
Vizla has no choice but to return to the shadowy life he thought he had left behind and uses his arsenal of deadly skills to outsmart his enemies, protect an innocent woman and redeem what’s left of his tortured soul. Along the way, he befriends a young woman named Camille (Vanessa Hudgens), who is seeking revenge for the death of her family when she was just a child.
There is a layer of sweetness hiding beneath the blood and guts that splatter the majority of the movie. Just as Hudgens’ character adds humanity to Vizla, she also adds it to the motion picture itself, elevating it from an otherwise grim experience. She grounds the story and allows us to see deeper into the soul of our protagonist.
That dichotomy is perhaps the most interesting thing about “Polar,” and it is also embodied in other small details in the film, such as when Vizla attempts to take on a pet. We witness a tough-as-nailed, seemingly unkillable man expose his humanity – something we do not expect to see, especially given the graphic nature of his kills.
Having said that, those kills are quite creative. Even hardcore horror fanatics may find themselves averting their eyes, while others may argue that movies like “Polar” are leading to our desensitization toward violence. After all, once you have seen a very obese man riddled with what appears to be hundreds of bullets, everyday deaths may seem boring by comparison.
That is neither in defense or an admonishment of “Polar’s” violence. It is simply a straightforward fact. The movie is certainly not for everybody but it is extremely colorful in both its physical aesthetic and its story, which is actually kind of poetic. The final twist is surprising and lends itself to plenty of analysis and discussion.
But the real reason to watch “Polar” is Mikkelsen, who manages to authentically exude the essence of this heavily tortured character.