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Iceland 2012
Directed by
Baltasar Kormakur
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Deep, The (2012)

Synopsis: A fisherman (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) is left in the freezing ocean after his boat capsizes off the south coast of Iceland. 

One of the beauties of film is that it can take you to places to which in real life you will never go, or even may never want to. One such place is the North Atlantic ocean, off the coast of Iceland and this where Baltasar Kormákur’s film takes you. The Deep is based on the true-life story of Gudlaugur Fridthórsson who survived for six-hours in icy waters after the fishing trawler he was working on sank. His five other shipmates either drowned at the time of the boat’s capsizing or died of hypothermia within 30 minutes, the greatest length of time that most people could possibly survive in such conditions.

The Deep is divided into two acts. The first and the more compelling one is the story of the disaster and Fridthórsson’s remarkable survival.  We get a brief scene-setting opening in which all the fishermen are introduced economically, largely pursuing what appears to be primary entertainment for these men – getting smashed. Baltasar Kormakur makes it plain that tragedy lies ahead and wastes little time before arriving at the actual capsizing and thus the film’s main agenda – the harrowing confrontation with the cruelly indifferent ocean.  

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson gives a marvelously stoical performance as a man who has just seen all his mates drown and is faced with the very real probability that he is soon to go the same way. One man in a vast ocean at night doesn’t have a lot of cinematic possibilities but Kormakur resourcefully uses inserts shot on Super 8 to recreate Fridthórsson’s memories and imaginings.  

The second part of the film tracks the efforts of the scientific community to work out why Fridthórsson survived what would otherwise have been considered humanly impossible conditions. No answer was reached and if this material is rather anticlimactically adjunctive it is justified by fidelity to the facts.

Indeed in the final analysis this matter-of-factness is where the strength of the film lies. In presenting the facts without Hollywood gloss Kormakur allows reality to show through and leaves us to make our own observations and inferences about a place to which most of us may never go and an experience which we certainly would never willingly have.




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