Digging deep just to survive
Film Review: The Deep, (No Cert, IFI, 95 minutes) 3 STARS
Director: Baltasar Kormakur Stars: Olafur Darri Olafsson, Johann G Johansson, Bjorn Thors
A brisk and efficient seafaring drama, Baltasar Kormakur's The Deep is to some extent hamstrung in creative terms by the true story that inspired it. In 1984, after a fishing trawler sank in stormy waters off the Iceland's remote and volcanic Westman Islands, a lone survivor called Gulli (Olafur Darri Olafsson) achieved a seemingly impossible feat.
Summoning baffling reserves of self-belief and fortitude, he swam for six hours through the freezing Atlantic, climbed a rock face in his bare feet and walked across a stony, barren landscape to the nearest town.
He was not an especially strong swimmer and no one had ever survived in freezing waters for anything like that long, but Gulli had done it and after he returned, everyone wanted to know how.
Kormakur's film begins bracingly with a thumbnail portrait of the fishermen's tough and brutal lives: they party hard and go to sea in all weathers, fortified by salted fish and grain alcohol.
The sequences where Gulli takes to the water and makes a fateful decision that will ultimately save his life are masterfully handled. Kormakur's camera bobs in and out of the water as Gulli wrestles with the elements and befriends a passing seagull in order to keep his spirits up.
Those scenes movingly communicate the raw power of Gulli's survival instinct, but once he reaches land The Deep hits problems.
The film sadly loses its dramatic impetus entirely as we follow the doughty fisherman to London for a series of scientific tests that tell us little we didn't already know about his escape.
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