Clinging onto life

Disaster movies from Iceland are few and far between – in fact this is the first one reviewed on this website. Taken from the true story of a fisherman’s survival in the North Atlantic Ocean, this shows one mans survival against the odds beautifully.

Released: 2012

Runtime: 1h 35 mins

The Premise

Based in the volcanic shoreline on the south of Iceland, The Deep follows Gulli, a man who survives a trawl boat capsize and his quest to survive.

The Disasters Faced

Hypothermia, drowning, capsizing, volcanic rock injuries, being smashed against the rocks by waves and having no one believe you when you do make it back home.

The Execution

The Deep (Djúpið) is understated much like an indie film. It’s hushed spoken word, constant chain smoking characters are all just milling through daily life. However, three things mark The Deep out as a unique entry into the disaster movie realm. Firstly, being Icelandic means that the film uses its beautiful surroundings to excellent effect – and it’s actually quite integral to the story. Flashbacks to news footage on small camera film of the volcanic eruptions on Westman Island adds a unique twist and hybrid of issues that we don’t see in other films. Secondly, the disaster takes place and is completed before the hour is up. It’s about 30 minutes of the film itself and very succinct. If you’re worried you’ve not enjoyed Cast Away or All Is Lost where it’s a one-man lonely show – this film is not that type of movie, it’s simply a section of it. Thirdly, the film has a unique final third that deals entirely with how the outside world viewed Gulli’s survival. He’s whisked off for experiments, held up as a celebrity – and it’s a fascinating insight into external post-disaster issues. With each section about half an hour, the film is really neatly bundled into an original and true-life story, told beautifully.

The capsize is excellently redone

The Effects

The capsizing scenes are really well done. There’s one shot where the camera is on the boat as it tips into the water and the water sloshes across the screen from left to right – it’s wonderfully disorientating. The location is a character in itself and is beautifully shot too.

Why It’s Worth Watching

Gulli is a very plain individual and whilst that doesn’t make him standout at all – it makes him an everyman. It’s probably why all the acting and land-based parts of the film are really muted, as it lulls you into a fisherman’s daily grind lifestyle. Some may find the film lacks the big effects or huge plot moments, but I didn’t expect it because the tone was not of that sort from the opening minutes. The film has several flashbacks to an old videotape that plays news sections from 1973’s Wakeman Island volcanic eruption – but the cast are also filmed and added into these shots. It’s a really interesting way to weave in the landscape’s own story and background into the film and the back and forth interplay I thought worked really well. The film is well acted, although a bit mumbly, and subtitled well for English.

Drinking Game

I get that sailors smoke like a chimney but my god – they don’t need a volcano burning the town down – everyone’s on fire already!

Weirdest Moment

It’s not so much a weird moment, but Gulli’s dog looks like it’s high on speed. Look at its eyes and mouth – something’s not quite right there!

Favourite Character

The film really is all about Gulli but the two sons are also adorable in their roles.

Random Trivia

The end credits feature TV footage of the actual hospital interview and the medical research video – perfectly replicated in film. For footage of the 1973 volcanic eruption please see this video news report below:


A quiet, introspective disaster movie that is all the better for taking a full-on realistic straight-faced and sometimes shot for shot enactment of a harrowing event. Recommended.

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