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How to Tell Mads Mikkelsen’s Polar From Mads Mikkelsen’s Arctic

Which “Mads Mikkelsen saves a young woman in the snow” thriller is which?

Mads Mikkelsen wears a hat and beard in Arctic. Mads Mikkelsen holds a gun in Polar.
Left: Mads Mikkelsen in Arctic. Right: Mads Mikkelsen in Polar. (We think.) Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo/Slate. Stills by Bleecker Street and Netflix.

Mads Mikkelsen is a Danish actor known for his roles as the baddie in Casino Royale, as a young Hannibal Lecter on Hannibal, and as the bitch who better have Rihanna’s money in Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” to name just a few. In February, you’ll also know him as the star of a new movie with a one-word title, playing a man desperately trying to save the life of a young woman set against an icy, snow-covered landscape. The only question is which movie you’ll be watching, because Mikkelsen has two upcoming projects that fit that description, and they both recently released trailers.


The two films, Arctic and Polar, are actually quite different. Arctic is a survival movie in the vein of Revenant or The Grey, while Polar is a stylized, action-packed adaptation of the webcomic and graphic novels by Victor Santos. Still, with such similar titles and premises, you could easily get confused about which one you’re viewing. We’re here to help.


OK, I’m watching a trailer and Mads Mikkelsen is in it. There is a lot of snow.

Does he have a beard?


That’s Arctic.

Wait, no, it’s more of a mustache and some scruff. Oh, and he has an eyepatch, too.

That’s Polar.

Mikkelsen isn’t talking all that much.

Well, if you’re watching Arctic, then his character, Overgård, doesn’t have a lot to talk about, since he lives alone in a downed plane after becoming the only survivor of a crash in the arctic tundra.


What plane? This guy lives in a cabin in the snowy mountains, near a lake.

You’re thinking of Polar. Mikkelsen plays Duncan Vizla, better known as the Black Kaiser, an assassin living out a quiet retirement where he says cryptic things like “I was in the funeral business” to his unsuspecting neighbors.



Oh! There’s a woman on-screen now, and she’s played by some actress I can’t quite place.

That’s probably María Thelma Smáradóttir, an Icelandic actress. She’s in Arctic.


She’s all bruised and bloodied, and she’s lying down. What happened to her?


Her helicopter crashed, which prompts Overgård to leave the relative safety of his campsite to get her some help.

Wait, she does look kind of familiar. Was she in High School Musical?

Ah, you mean Vanessa Hudgens. She’s in Polar.

Why is she bruised and bloodied? Did she also crash a helicopter?

No. She befriended Vizla without realizing he’s an assassin, and she was kidnapped by his former employer because they’ve decided Vizla is a liability.

Images of the two women, both lying down, both bruised and bloodied.
Top: María Thelma Smáradóttir in Arctic. Bottom: Vanessa Hudgens in Polar. Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo/Slate. Stills by Bleecker Street and Netflix.

Uh oh, watch out for those assassins, Mads Mikkelsen!

Yep, that’s Polar.

Uh oh, watch out for that polar bear, Mads Mikkelsen!

That’s Arctic.

Wait—the movie with polar bears in it isn’t Polar?

So far as we know, there are no polar bears in Polar.

Where does Polar take place? Is it the Arctic?


Uh oh, now Mads Mikkelsen is wearing gloves!

still Arctic?

The gloves have lasers on them.

Definitely Polar.

Can I watch either of these movies without leaving the warmth of my house?

Sure, Polar comes to Netflix on Jan. 25.

Sweet. What if I’d rather watch Arctic, though?

It comes to theaters in the U.S. on Feb. 1.

Wait—now the gloves have broken liquor bottles taped to them?

You’re watching The Grey.