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The Deep - Review

The Deep

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

HAVING shot to prominence with the acclaimed Icelandic films 101 Reykjavik and Jar City, and then making a name for himself in Hollywood with Contraband, it’s nice to see that Baltasar Kormákur isn’t going to abandon his roots.

His latest, The Deep, sees him returning to his homeland to direct a story that’s close to his heart. But one that still boasts broad appeal thanks to the amazing true story behind it,

In 1984, an unassuming Icelandic fisherman named Gulli (played by Kormákur regular Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) was part of a crew whose boat capsized in the freezing North Atlantic Ocean. While his crew almost instantly perished in the water, Gulli was able to survive for six hours, before finding land (or uninhabited lava field) and then navigating his way over that harsh terrain to rescue.

The fisherman in question is now an Icelandic hero but there is still much mystery over how he was able to survive. His story, perhaps obviously, attracted the interest of scientists around the globe who were desperate to learn more.

Kormákur’s film follows this aftermath both as a means of offering some explanation as to how remarkable the story was and to show how survival affected this unlikely hero. It is, admittedly, at it’s most gripping when chronicling his survival at sea, having been shot in the ocean to create as much authenticity as possible.

Ólafsson, in the lead role, creates a palpable sense of fear as he is left alone to face near-certain death, as well as a dogged survival instinct. He’s equally adept at channelling the survivor’s guilt and uncertainty that followed as well as an amiable willingness to give himself over to rigorous testing.

The Deep therefore works on many levels… as an affecting but realistically portrayed story of triumph against the odds, as an insight into the plight of Icelandic fisherman and as an examination of celebrity and heroism.

But there’s another level too. Kormákur also wants the film to serve as a metaphor for the collapse of his country’s economy (which was, in itself, a precursor to the global meltdown that followed), particularly in the way that his country’s economy is often described in nautical terms. Find out more.

It’s also deeply thought-provoking as a result and firm evidence of a filmmaker who remains ardently committed to making smaller, more interesting films as well as entertaining crowd-pleasers (he’s re-teamed with Wahlberg for 2 Guns next).

The Deep is a movie that’s definitely worth putting on your radar.

(In Icelandic with subtitles)

Certificate: 15
Running time: 92mins
UK Release Date: July 12, 2013