February 09, 2019 – Jurmane Lallana
alike.com.ph—Before watching any Netflix movie or series, we usually see this line under the Overview: “This movie is:_______” Normally, it has several tags like “sentimental,” or “feel-good.” However, for “Polar” (2019), it only has one tag: Violent. This isn’t really a bad thing, because the marketing for this movie was really on point: Legendary assassin Duncan Vizla (Mads Mikkelsen) is retiring, said assassin is being targeted by his employer, and so blood gets spilled everywhere. And when we say everywhere, we mean EVERYWHERE.
“Polar” doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is: An R-action film with a lot of girls, guns, and gore. It goes all out with these, not holding back in any way. Although the critics don’t seem to be very fond of “Polar” overall (it has a relatively low Metascore—to say that “Polar” is polarizing would be a huge understatement), exciting sequences and key performances from Mikkelsen and Vanessa Hudgens should be enough reasons to give this movie a go.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. We’ve compiled the reasons why “Polar” is worth the watch despite what critics are saying:
If you like John Wick and can’t wait for John Wick 3, ‘Polar’ is a good fit for you
When I first saw the trailer, I kept thinking that “Polar” is basically John Wick but instead of awesome Keanu Reeves, we get equally awesome Mikkelsen in the lead role. Of course, upon watching, I noticed that there are notable differences between the two. Since “Polar” is based on the 2012 comic book series from Dark Horse, it technically predates John Wick’s 2014 release. Still, it’s about a deadly assassin who just wants to be left alone, but the world that he knows foolishly goes after him, and they go down, one by one, body by body. Oh, and “Polar” also features a dog named Rusty (I’m still bitter about what happened to him. Oh well.).
Speaking of Mads Mikkelsen, he is able to pull off the brooding, lone wolf act
Galen Erso. Hannibal. Kaecilius. These are but some of Mikkelsen’s iconic roles, and although it’s too early to tell if we will remember him as Duncan Vizla, he is pretty effective in the role. “Polar” doesn’t spend a lot of time discussing Duncan’s background, but Mikkelsen’s portrayal makes us sympathetic towards the character. He’s tired and ready to retire from a life of chaos and destruction. He was very good at doing his “job” as a hitman. But now, he struggles with navigating the normal life. “Polar” as the title is actually very apt: Duncan decides to settle in Triple Oak, a fictional town in Montana that’s characterized by extremely cold temperature, and Duncan’s isolation as an assassin has made him very cold as a person—not necessarily mean, but just cold and lonely (the lonely part triggering Duncan’s attempts to live with a pet).
Duncan Vizla is not a saint
More on Duncan, the Black Kaiser: Because of his emotional state, he’s quick to move on from things, which makes him kind of an asshole. Billionaire Mark Cuban says that “nobody quits anything they are good at because it is fun to be good. It is fun to be one of the best.” Although Duncan wanted to quit being an assassin, we see how he enjoys winning when he comes face to face with the Mr. Blut’s A-team. As he picked them off one by one and the predators become prey, his lips couldn’t help but curl into a smile because he knows he’s better than all of them combined. He loves toying with his victims, telling them quotes like “you make mistakes when you’re afraid.” Later in the film, he gets a cool-looking eye patch, completing the rugged look. Instead of playing Geralt of Rivia from the Witcher franchise (Henry Cavill has now been cast in the role), maybe Mikkelsen can do a convincing Solid Snake from Metal Gear?
‘Polar’ maintains its comic book roots
Based on “Polar: Came From The Cold” by Victor Santos, it might not be for everyone, but watching this film can be likened to reading an interactive comic book, where the scene changes look like page flips. The screen freezes like a panel when characters are introduced, text with creative fonts appear out of nowhere and update us with current locations and events, and the blood swish sound is all over the film. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Sin City films, actually. We also have the cookie-cutter comic book villain in Mr. Blut (Matt Lucas), who’s all talk but no walk. He’s very annoying (and often lacks logic), but maybe that’s the whole point of the character?
Katheryn Winnick’s style as Vivian
“You look extraordinary, as always.” Katheryn plays Vivian, Mr. Blut’s right-hand woman in his Damocles operation. For some reason, she and Duncan share a mysterious past, which makes her a legitimate “frenemy.” Vivian is described as a formidable assassin as well, but sadly, we don’t get to see her fight. What we do see is a different flashy outfit in each scene she’s in—she probably has more than a dozen looks in “Polar.” With her fierce eyes, commanding voice, and a physique that would look excellent in spandex, we can now see why Winnick was a fan favorite to play Captain Marvel in the MCU.
Vanessa Hudgens’ acting chops
More than a decade after, Hudgens is still mostly known for her role as sweet Gabriella in Disney’s “High School Musical.” However, she’s busy making her mark with projects such as the short-lived superhero sitcom “Powerless,” the Netflix romcom “Princess Switch” and Fox’s “Rent: Live.” In “Polar,” she shows what she can do with Camille, a young woman who’s deeply troubled with a traumatizing past. Like Duncan, Camille finds it hard to connect because she’s in a permanent state of sadness. Hudgens’ range especially shines towards the end of the film, when all secrets are revealed (along with her name—it won't be mentioned until 80 percent of the film is done).
The play on colors is beautiful
When it’s a Duncan or a Camille scene, almost everything present is gray. In contrast, scenes with the bad guys always have so much life. Mr. Blut’s A-team screams with color. Femme fatal Sindy’s bright red lipstick is always front and center, and the way blood spatters across the room is quite generous. However, it would've been better if members of the group should have been given more personality, aside from Facundo as the level-headed sniper of the group, and Hilde as the default leader of the group/Blut’s girlfriend.
The twist, the unanswered questions, and a possible sequel?
The plot of “Polar” is very simple (and to a certain extent, can be called shallow), but the major twist reveal is a nice touch. The ending of the film also perfectly sets up the events for a sequel—Duncan and Camille’s bond is stronger than ever, and they are set on finding who had her whole family killed. Was it the group of suits who wanted to buy Damocles from Mr. Blut at the start of the film? And what about Vivian? Is she going to be more of an ally the next time around? How about Jazmin? Who is she and why does she have an insane number of weapons?
Johnny Knoxville is in this movie
Okay, so he’s only there for like two minutes, but it’s Johnny Knoxville! Since we probably won’t hear him say “My name is Johnny Knoxville, and welcome to Jackass” anytime soon, his cameo appearance in “Polar” is definitely a pleasant surprise. Even Mikkelsen admitted that he only realized Knoxville was in there when he was already watching “Polar” as a finished movie.
“Polar” certainly isn’t perfect. But it is able to give us a comic book adaptation that is not superhero-related, and it serves a very good break from all the DC and Marvel films that Hollywood keeps on releasing. It’s a great choice after a tough day at work, when all you want to do is have an ice cold beer in hand, and watch a guy’s severed head get thrown off a window.
Photos courtesy of Netflix. “Polar” is now available for streaming on Netflix.
A BANKER TURNED SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYST, JURMANE LALLANA THRIVES ON MAKING SENSE OF WHAT'S IN FRONT OF HIM. HE BELIEVES THAT MOVIES AND TV SHOWS ARE ESSENTIALS IN LIFE, JUST LIKE FOOD. CATCH HIS THOUGHTS AND MUSINGS ON HIS BLOG AND FACEBOOK PAGE.
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