Ever wanted to be a fly on the wall after the credits ended? See heroes go home, sit down, and process what just happens? Welcome to The Deep.
The Deep feels like a complete film. An entire narrative that doesn’t just end with that cheesy moment of victory where everyone’s hugging and things are going to be okay. In this film, inspired by the legendary tale of an Icelandic fisherman who became the only survivor of a sinking ship by swimming back to shore in near-freezing water and crossing the volcanic plains back to his home town, the action is only the first half.
That’s not to say it’s bad action, either – the buildup to the point at which Gulli – the protagonist, played by the talented Ólafur Darri Ólafsson – departs on what will be the worst few days of his entire life, is subtle. It’s quiet. The dock is dark, deserted. The ship’s crew are muted, occasionally laughing, rarely upbeat. There’s no Hollywood to be found in these scenes, and trust me, it’s refreshing.
But when the ship sinks, and when Gulli finds himself floating in water that should have killed him several times over, you begin to see inside the mind of a character who feels so much more fleshed out than the ones you stumble across when watching Castaway or The Perfect Storm. He nearly weeps. He talks to a seagull. He gives up. He’s entirely human – he doesn’t just grit his teeth and James Bond his way out of there, rising up out of the sea like Michael Phelps with a fishing gig. He falters, and breaks, and you feel for him.
When he returns, it’s not something I want to ruin for you, dear reader, but I will say this – it’s at this point that The Deep makes a lot of action films look hollow and pointless. Gulli has to adapt to life as not just a celebrity, but a scientific phenomenon, someone to be poked and prodded by journalist and scientist alike. In an odd way, Gulli’s tale is one of two different types of isolation – the castaway, and the misunderstood celebrity suffering from horrendous survivor’s guilt.
The rest of the cast are talented and serious, and no one feels cheesy. Then again, I could say that about just about any drama I’ve seen where the primary spoken dialect wasn’t English, and that’s something we should probably aim a critical lens at. The Deep is a film that makes you think about what it must be like not to have that sort of heroic reputation, but how to cope with being hailed as a miracle when your friends are dead, leaving relatives, spouses and even children behind them.
Of course, should you currently be googling instructions for how to tie a slipknot, fear not – I aim not to depress you, but to communicate to you that films like these are very, very important. Hollywood is running out of ideas not because their ideas aren’t good, but because their execution of them so often fails to encapsulate the most significant thing about them – these films are about people. Gulli is a person, and The Deep is about that person. I take my made-up hat off to writer and director Baltasar Kormákur (Reyjavik 101 and Contraband) for a job well done.
The Deep is released in cinemas on Friday 12 July, 2013. You can read our interview with director Baltasar Kormákur here.
See the trailer here: