Before he directs 2 Guns with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, there’s a wee jaunt home for the Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakurt (Jar City/Contraband) for this little story. It wasn’t worth the trip.
It’s Iceland, 1984, and a shipping trawler is setting out on a routine sweep. However, when their nets snag on a rock and tip the boat over, three of the crew are thrown into the freezing North Atlantic- Captain Hannes (Thors), married with kids Palli (Johannson) and the overweight Giulli (Olafsson). Hannes and childhood friend Palli don’t make it but Giulli, after making a deal with God for one more day to walk the dog, pay off debts, ride his bike, drink from a glass instead of a carton, and tell the woman he loves how he feels, etc, does. Giulli miraculously survives the six hour swim in freezing waters, the steep cliff climb, and the trek across volcanic rocks to make it home. Scientists are astounded at this seemingly impossible undertaking and conduct tests…
While The Deep might be ‘based on true events,’ and amazing true events they were, Kormakúr doesn’t impose a film structure on the story. Riveting during the harrowing scenes, by the end credits, it is however, hard to escape the sense of pointlessness to it all. What have we learned here? To seize the day? Maybe, but we don’t know much about Giuli before the ordeal to see how much it changes him; we don’t know he loves that girl, or he’s in debt, or he’s a biker, that he doesn’t walk the dog or that mum is pissed that he drinks from the carton. Where the set up skimps on these essentials, it concentrates on the conventional introduction of the ship’s crew – the grouchy one, the new one, etc – which proves time wasted as none of them have any impact on the story.
The sinking of the ship is impressive, as are the flashbacks to the Heimay volcanic eruption of 1973, which a small Giuli survived (his childhood home is unscathed, mirroring the odd events that would unfold ten years later), and Olafsson’s everyman is great, but they are not enough to save The Deep.