Film Title: The Deep
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Jóhann G. Jóhannsson
Running Time: 123 min
At first glance – and for much of its run time – The Deep might pass for a grittier, tauter rendition of George Clooney vehicle – or should that be vessel? – The Perfect Storm. This Nordic adventure ultimately proves far more extraordinary in terms of content and delivery than that salty dog tragedy.
Inspired by a bizarre real life shipping disaster, Iceland’s Oscar entry (it made the January shortlist) follows a small fishing expedition off the remote Westman Islands. Here, in a tiny Protestant community, we find Gulli (Kormákur regular Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, excellent), a stout twentysomething who, when he isn’t out on the North Atlantic, can be found smoking and/or drinking with the rest of the locals.
As The Deep begins, the most significant event in our hero’s life was the 1973 eruption of the Eldfell volcano, a memory that comes to haunt Gulli as he ventures out to sea with five companions on a leaky and doomed vessel. When the boat starts to sink in freezing waters, it seems certain that the sailors will not survive the forbidding temperatures. But then something weird and kind of wonderful happens.
Watch the trailer - The Deep
Kormákur, the superb directorial talent behind 2006’s Jar City, has been snapped up by Hollywoodland to preside over such thrillers as Mark Wahlberg’s Contraband and the incoming 2 Guns starring Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. They’ve brought him in to boss A-listers with good reason: there are few film-makers on earth who could turn the odd story at the heart of The Deep into a viable and gripping thriller. The movie may be all at sea and bobbing along. But the drama never flags.
Fittingly grey and oppressive cinematography from Bergsteinn Bjorgulfsson and a splendid crashing sound design keep us hooked. You’ll never feel so glad to see a seagull as you do watching Gulli’s struggle against the waves. The backbreaking swimming captured onscreen is the real deal and helps to ground what could otherwise be dismissed as a fishy tale.
The sly notion that the entire film doubles as metaphor for Iceland’s economic collapse adds to the sense that we’re watching a master film-maker at work.