“Against The Ice,” directed by Peter Flinth, is the epic survival tale of two explorers, Ejnar Mikkelsen and Iver Iversen. Nikolaj Coster Waldau, who plays the protagonist, Ejnar Mikkelsen, has co-written the screenplay together with Joe Derrick.
Joe Cole plays Iver Iversen, the determined mechanic who, though inexperienced when it comes to exploration, becomes the saving grace of Mikkelsen’s life. “Against The Ice” revolves mostly around both these actors and showcases how together they survived 865 days in the blustery winters of North-Eastern Greenland. When you see such a survival instinct, you realize the potential of the human spirit. When you stand to face a storm, it is then that you discover things about yourself that were unknown to you until that moment. You face your worst fears. Every day, you wake up with the knowledge that it could be your last. But it’s not just the fear of death alone. It is the nature of death that sends shivers down your spine. The fear of dying in anonymity is ceaseless.
So let’s take a look at the journey of two courageous explorers, their audacious expedition, and their undaunted choices that helped them to create history.
‘Against The Ice’ Plot Summary
It was Christmas Eve 1909 when the crew of the Alabama ship raised a toast in honor of those explorers who gave their lives exploring the last unknown parts of the world. Ejnar Mikkelsen’s shipmates included G.H. Jörgensen, Vilhelm Laub, Hans P. Olsen, George Poulsen, Carl Unger, and the young Iver Iversen, who joined the crew midway at Reykjavik. Iversen’s name was not on the original crew list.
We see Mikkelsen bringing Jörgensen back on a sledge as he gets injured while on the rescue mission. Other members rushed them inside the Alabama ship, which they had converted into living quarters. Jörgensen got severely wounded, and one of his fingers in the leg had to be decapitated. With Jorgensen incapacitated now, Mikkelsen asks his shipmates to volunteer and come with him for a second rescue attempt. They were trying to procure a piece of evidence that they knew would otherwise be buried in oblivion. But nobody wanted to sign up for a mission that reeked of death. Conditions in the Arctic were not favorable for human survival.
Amidst the predicament, Iversen volunteered to accompany Mikkelsen. He had been a fan of the captain and wanted to experience what it was like to be on a mission in the godforsaken land. But what was that piece of evidence for which Captain Mikkelsen was ready to risk his life a second time?
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Did The Denmark Expedition Aim To Achieve?
The Denmark Mission was carried out by Ludvig Mylius Enrichsen, Niel Peter Hoeg Hagen, and Jorgen Brolund. They were there to prove the findings of an American explorer named Robert. E. Peary wrong. Robert Peary had claimed that there was a channel that divided the north-eastern part of Greenland into two regions. He said that the island on the other side of the channel belonged to the U.S.A. Enrichson and his boys set out to prove them wrong. The issue was that they were themselves referring to the maps made by the Americans, which were in reality incomplete. The three Danish explorers never returned. When the news came out, Ejnar Mikkelsen set out on the rescue mission to look for Erichsen and his group. Their carrier, Alabama, got stuck in the ice and, hence, they were stranded miles away from the place where they had suspected that Enrishsen and his group had died. After one unsuccessful attempt, Mikkelsen was not ready to give up. Frenzied you might call him, but he decided to go ahead with Ivery Iversen, even when he knew that he did not have any prior exploration experience.
‘Against The Ice’ Ending Explained – Was Ejnar Mikkelsen Able To Find The Evidence?
There were many skills that a person needed to possess before going on an expedition like the one that Mikkelsen had undertaken, and Iver Iversen had none. He didn’t know how to control the dogs that pulled their sledge, which was one of the primary skills needed by any explorer in terrain like Greenland. They were hopeful that Ludvig Mylius Enrichsen must have put the evidence in a cairn somewhere before dying. But imagine searching for a pile of rocks in such a vast expanse. It seemed like foolishness more than bravery. It was a suicide mission. But Mikkelsen and his amateur colleague were relentless. They were not ready to give up. They do end up finding the cairn that had proof that Greenland was not divided into two parts, proving Ludvig Enrichsen wrong. But a greater challenge lay ahead.
Though they had come a long way, they still needed to return to their base and reunite with their crew members. Their supplies were running low, and they had to kill the weak dogs to feed the ones who still had the strength to pull the sledge. Eventually, all the dogs die of either starvation or extreme cold. Mikkelsen and Iversen burn whatever is not necessary and start moving swiftly towards their base camp. As if the expedition was not gruesome enough in itself, they realized that the rest of the crew members had left them. A ship had arrived, and the crew members felt that they needed to board it as they had no guarantee that Mikkelsen and Iversen would even come back. They had left ample supplies that were enough to survive for a year or so. They went back so that they could ask the Danish government to orchestrate a rescue mission. But to their horror, the Danish government refused to spend money on another rescue mission, which they considered futile. According to their assumption, there was no possibility that Mikkelsen and Iversen would come back alive. Jörgensen begs them to at least announce a reward in case somebody wanted to volunteer, if the government was not going to intervene.
Mikkelsen and Iversen felt betrayed to see their crew members had left without them. They themselves didn’t have much hope that they would survive. So instead of keeping the evidence with themselves, they also built a cairn on their way back and kept the evidence inside it. One day, Mikkelsen gets a dream where a polar bear broke the cairn and tampered with the evidence. He became concerned and decided to return with the evidence, despite the fact that they were in much better physical condition now. Mikkelsen felt that there was no need to leave a note behind as he knew that they would make it back. That became their biggest mistake. A search party arrived at their base camp only to find that the duo wasn’t there. When they came back with the evidence, they found the note of the search party. Mikkelsen becomes frustrated as he knows that it might have been their last chance to get saved.
After being stranded for almost 865 days, Ejnar Mikkelsen and Iver Iversen were rescued and brought back. They were honored by the government as they had successfully proved that Greenland was not divided into two regions as claimed by Robert E. Peary. Greenland was one and it belonged to Denmark.
Mikkelsen suffered from hallucinations and, at one point in time, was almost killed by a polar bear. Mikkelsen and Iversen survived through hunger and a climate where even hope was molded into something dreary. The rekindling fire of their primus was as wavering as their own belief that they would make it through.
But then, what kept them breathing? What made them take such a hopeless expedition? I think the answer is not that simple to understand. Furthermore, it is not supported logically. Mikkelsen says that there is truth in every dream. But what he does not explicitly state is the fact that in order to make it your own, one needs to be passionate enough because passion is the only fuel that keeps you moving forward. Often, on the path of chasing your dreams, you are faced with situations that no man would willingly sign up for. But such is the power of dreams that you can look beyond a cul de sac and not mind the vexations of life, in the hope that one day you will achieve what you set out for.
“Against The Ice” is a 2022 Period Drama film directed by Peter Flinth. It is an inspirational survival story of two brave adventurers who were ready to risk it all.