Netflix’s historical survival film ‘Against the Ice’ is based on Danish explorers Ejnar Mikkelsen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Iver Iversen (Joe Cole), who attempt to prove that Greenland is one, and negate the USA’s claim of North-Eastern Greenland. It is inspired by true events.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
In 1909, Captain Mikkelsen returns from an expedition, undertaken to locate the findings of previous explorers, but his companion, Jörgensen (Gísli Örn Garðarsson), comes back with a severe case of frostbite, forcing the crew to decapitate his toes.
The crew at the Alabama ship had arrived to get their hands on the findings, which could prove that Greenland was not divided into two parts by a channel, as claimed by the Americans to take control of one part.
Mikkelson reveals that all he found was a journal, and a map, that shows the location of the cairn; a stack of stones used to store the proof of whether Greenland is one. The captain announces that he will return for another expedition.
But with Jörgensen incapable of accompanying him this time around due to his injury, he would need a new partner. The entire crew is hesitant, until Iversen, the mechanic who only joined them recently to fix their ship, volunteers as he is appreciative of the captain’s previous work.
After careful thought, Mikkelsen agrees. As the two begin their journey, they hit the first hurdle, and lose Bjorn, the dog that Iversen had grown close to, as well as some of their food supply.
After struggling for months, they finally locate the cairn. Inside, they find the proof, a map which shows that the channel the Americans claimed divided Greenland does not exist.
With their mission fulfilled, the two decide to return to Alabama and help Denmark claim Greenland as a whole. However, their return isn’t exactly smooth.
On their way back, Mikkelsen is attacked by a polar bear, who drags him through the snow. Iversen shoots it and saves his captain. Fearing their survival, the two build a cairn of their own, to allow someone else to locate their findings in case they perish.
When the two finally return to Alabama, they find that the ship has been wrecked and the parts have been used to construct small huts.
To their shock, the entire crew of Alabama is nowhere to be found. They fled the area as their ship had been shattered by ice, and some whalers found them. However, they were supposed to wait till August for Mikkelsen and Iversen to return.
Back in the city, Jörgensen and others request the government to initiate a rescue mission for the two, but the government officials believe that it isn’t possible for the two to have survived, especially when one of them was a mere mechanic with no experience in the Arctic.
This begins a torturous effort of survival for the two. Thankfully, the crew left enough food supply to last a year, but the time begin to tick.
If you have any doubts from the ending, here’s a detailed breakdown.
Against The Ice ending explained in detail:
Reclaim the cairn
As the two wait to be saved, Mikkelsen has a frightening dream. He sees a bear demolishing the cairn and wakes up in fear that all their hard work could be lost.
He convinces Iversen that they need to return to it and bring the findings with them as they need to protect it and never should have left it there in the first place.
While Iversen tells him that they should be leaving a note in case someone reaches the hut to find them, Mikkelsen replies that they’ll be back before the summer ends and anybody finds them.
When they reach the cairn, it has been mauled by a bear, but the most essential findings are intact. There was some truth to his nightmare after all.
When they return, someone had attempted to find them. Mikkelson feels the guilt of not acting on Iversen’s suggestion.
As they continue their fight for survival, Mikkelsen suffers an infected wound on his neck, which causes him to hallucinate.
He sees his lover, Naja (Heida Reed), arriving in a hot air balloon and talking to him. But when Iversen arrives, he sees Mikkelsen alone.
The captain continues losing it and shares with the hallucination that he thinks Iversen blames him for their condition and will attempt to kill him.
Even after Iversen removes the infection with a knife, his condition continues worsens, and one day, Mikkelsen decides that he will kill his companion, leading to an almost fatal fight, where the captain shoots using a rifle, but not at Iversen.
Iversen hides the rifle in the storage hut, but the two just can’t catch a break as their hut is found by a polar bear, who attempts to destroy it, but they manage to scare it away with noise.
Escape the Arctic
When they hear footsteps again, Mikkelsen believes that the bear has returned. The two had managed to get the rifle back and go out to shoot it.
To their near disbelief, it’s actually humans that have come to save them. The nightmare is over and they can finally return to civilisation.
The two are lauded for their findings and helping Denmark disprove the claims of the Americans; they become heroes of the country.
Just as they are about to greet an audience, the real Naja arrives. Mikkelsen introduces her to Iversen, who is shocked at her name, which Mikkelsen had mentioned on a few occasions during their time together, but never as an actual person he knew.
He had also told Iversen that there was nobody waiting for him, and he travelled light for expeditions, without all the attached emotions. But, in truth, the fact that he had left Naja to go on expeditions haunted him every single day.
Relieved to be reunited with her, Mikkelsen, along with Iversen, go on stage to bask in their newfound hero status.
The end credits reveal that Mikkelsen and Naja married one year later and he dedicated his life to Greenland, Iversen never set foot in the Arctic again, and Mikkelsen and Iversen stayed friends for life.