A spare and reasonably compelling Icelandic survival drama from Jar City director Baltasar Kormákur
Charting a similar course to Life of Pi but minus the tiger and meta-fictional trappings, The Deep is the true story of a man’s survival in perilous waters after a shipwreck. The director is Baltasar Kormákur, who sprung to international recognition with 101 Reykjavik and Jar City, and who followed up by remaking his own film Reykjavík Rotterdam as Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg (he's also just completed summer action film 2 Guns starring Wahlberg and Denzel Washington).
The Deep operates on a scale far smaller than any of the above projects. Rugged fisherman Gulli (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) enjoys some drunken shore leave before heading off on a fishing trawler, setting sail on the treacherous seas off the south coast of Iceland. When their net get snared, the boat is dragged beneath the water, and Gulli finds himself the only crew-member with a chance to survive. With only a seagull for company, he begins an unlikely journey from the depths of the ocean to a salvation that baffled real-life authorities and medical examiners alike.
The final third of the film, with doctors trying to figure out why Gulli survived, is the least satisfying section, a long-winded exposition of information that could have been more dramatically handled. ‘You know how important this is to Icelandic fisherman?’ one character asks Gulli. The Deep is unlikely to be of much importance to anyone else, yet unearths one rather unusual idea in that body fat might save lives. Gulli is described as having ‘seal fat’ beneath his skin; whatever it is, it somehow kept him alive when any other man would have perished.
Complete with a short coda featuring a 1984 interview with the real Gulli, The Deep is a spare and reasonably compelling drama for the first hour, mainly thanks to Ólafsson’s star-making turn.
Screening at Cineworld Fountainpark, Thu 20 Jun and Filmhouse, Fri 21 Jun as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013. Limited release from Fri 12 Jul.