The Deep (Djupio) (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/07/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 93 mins

The latest film from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur is a stunningly shot shipwreck drama that tells a remarkable true story, though the lead character remains frustratingly distant emotionally, despite a strong performance from Olafur Darri Olafsson.

What's it all about?
Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, The Deep (or Djupio, original title fans) is based on a 1984 true story that occurred off Iceland’s volcanic Westman Islands. Olafur Darri Olafsson stars as burly islander Gulli (short for Gudlaugur Fridporsson), a fisherman who's aboard the ill-fated vessel Breki when she capsizes in freezing cold waters, several miles away from land.

When his two remaining crew members succumb to the icy depths, Gulli miraculously manages to make it to shore, after swimming for several hours in sub-zero temperatures. Once on land he treks across several miles of foot-shredding terrain before finally collapsing at the first door he comes to. Subsequently, no-one can believe his story, but an investigation reveals he is telling the truth, whereupon he is whisked away for a series of scientific tests to establish how on earth he could have survived his ordeal.

The Good
The film is stunningly shot throughout, courtesy of cinematographer Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson, who makes extraordinary use of a series of natural locations, not least when Gulli finally arrives on land. In particular, there's a jaw-dropping sequence (shot from above in one take and apparently done for real) where Gulli swims round a rocky cove, being smashed with enormous waves as he does so.

The Bad
Olafur Darri Olafsson (a regular performer in Kormakur's films) delivers a solid performance as Gulli and the shipwreck sequence (up to and including his return to dry land) is extremely gripping.

However, his performance is hampered by the script, which gives him very little dialogue and insists on him remaining relatively blank-faced throughout, meaning that it's difficult to connect with him on an emotional level – you can imagine, for example, that the Hollywood version of this story would be very different.

To be fair, Kormakur has stated that that same reticence (a man miraculously surviving a horrific ordeal but not really wanting to talk about it) reflects the national character and that that's what attracted him to the project in the first place, but the film doesn't make enough of that idea for it to really translate. Similarly, Kormakur includes news footage of the real Gulli over the closing credits and those moments are genuinely moving in a way that the fictional version can't quite manage.

Worth seeing?
The Deep (Djupio) is a beautifully shot drama that recounts a remarkable true story, but the lack of plot and character development in the second half of the film means that the end result fails to satisfy on an emotional level.

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The Deep (Djupio) (12A)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 17:53

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