Arctic (2018): Is the Movie Based on a Real Survival Story?

Directed by Joe Penna, ‘Arctic’ is a survival drama film that stars Mads Mikkelsen as Overgård, a stranded pilot waiting to be rescued in the harsh cold climate of the Arctic. However, when another survivor’s fate is inadvertently tied to him, Overgård is forced to choose between remaining housed in the plane’s wreckage or undertaking an ambitious hike to find help.

The emotionally riveting 2018 film has minimal dialog but explores the nature of humanity through the uncanny tale of survival. Therefore, viewers must be curious to learn about the inspiration behind it. If you are wondering whether ‘Artic’ is inspired by true events, here is everything you need to know!

Arctic is an Original Screenplay

No, ‘Arctic’ is not based on a true story. The film is based on an original concept from director Joe Penna. Penna is a musician and filmmaker known for directing several short films. He directed the 2021 sci-fi film ‘Stowaway‘ starring Anna Kendrick and Daniel Dae Kim. Penna also directed episodes of the thriller series ‘Release.’ ‘Arctic’ is Penna’s debut directorial feature film debut. However, the idea of the survival film’s premise is not very grounded in reality.

Penna runs a highly successful YouTube channel known as Mystery Guitar Man. On the channel, Penna created several short films and music videos. However, Penna wished to break the mold and wanted to make his feature film debut. He wanted to tell a positive and happy story that would have a different tone from his previous body of work. Therefore, he teamed up with his writing partner Ryan Morrison who co-wrote the screenplay for ‘Arctic.’ However, after rejecting offers to make several horror movies, the duo decided to o a survival film.

In an interview with The Hot Corn, Penna opened up about conceptualizing the movie’s concept. “We started looking for different things, and I knew that I wanted to tell a relatively universal story, so that’s what we were searching for, and survival was always going to be interesting,” Penna stated. After deciding on survival as the primary theme, the writers chose Mars as the movie’s primary setting. Penna and Morrison liked the hostile atmosphere of the Red Planet as the setting for a survival movie.

However, after writing an initial draft of the screenplay, the duo learned about Ridley Scott’s 2015 space-survival drama ‘The Martian‘ starring Matt Damon in the lead role. Penna felt their project had little chance of materializing, given its similarity to ‘The Martian,’ leading him to drop the idea of a survival movie set on Mars.

Eventually, Penna and Morrison reworked the script and changed the setting to the Arctic. “The core of the story that we wanted to tell stayed the same, and it can be anywhere, in the Arctic or in a desert. You just change the mechanics of his challenges, and that’s it,” Penna said in the aforementioned interview. Penna explained that film dives into the nature of the human psyche. The narrative does not provide any backstories to its characters adding to the story’s universal theme and enabling a thorough exploration of humanity.

All things said, ‘Arctic’ is not based on a true story. The movie is based on the themes of survival and the human spirit. Initially planned as a space-survival film, the writers changed the setting to the Arctic, grounding the narrative in reality. The brilliant lead performance and clever writing anchor the film, allowing viewers to empathize with the protagonist’s quest for survival in the most hostile environment known to humankind. As a result, ‘Arctic’ exudes realism despite its unconventional conceptualization.

Read More: Where Was Arctic (2018) Filmed?