The Deep an Icelandic Film by Baltasar Kormákur

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Photo montage of scenes from the Icelandic feature The Deep (2012). The central image is from the theatrical poster for the film.

🇮🇸 THE DEEP 🇮🇸

The Deep aka Djúpið (2012) is an Icelandic action-drama film. 1hr 35min. Available free with Prime Video U.K.; rent/buy Prime Video, Vudu, Red Box etc. US; rent/buy Cineplex Can. Icelandic with subtitles.


“Based on actual events, a fisherman tries to survive in the freezing ocean after his boat capsizes off the south coast of Iceland.” IMDb


Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Gulli
Stefán Hallur Stefánsson as Jón
Joi Johansson as Palli
Thora Bjorg Helga as Halla
Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson as Lárus
Björn Thors as Hannes
Walter Grímsson as Raggi
Guðjón Pedersen as Erlingur Prófessor
Theodór Júliússon as Gulli’s Father
María Sigurðardóttir as Gulli’s Mother
Stormur J.K. Baltarsarsson as Batman – Bjarni
Martin Halldórsson as Spider-Man – Gilli

Theatrical poster for The Deep


Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writers: Jón Atli Jónasson & Baltasar Kormákur
Cinematographers: Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson & Einar Magnus Magnusson
Editors: Sverrir Kristjánsson & Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir
Costume: Helga I. Stefánsdóttir
Music: Daníel Bjarnason & Ben Frost
Sound: Kjartan Kjartansson & Ingvar Lundberg
Make-Up: Ragna Fossberg
Set Design: Atli Geir Grétarsson
Visual Effects: Dadi Einarsson


The film is based on the true story of Guðlaugur Friðþórsson a fisherman who survived in the freezing ocean after his boat capsized off the south coast of Iceland.ðlaugur_Friðþórsson

The stage play ‘The Deep’ by playwright Jón Atli Jónasson which Baltasar Kormákur watched in 2008 was the inspiration for this film.

Ben Frost is an Australian composer who relocated to Reykjavik in 2005. Apart from The Deep he has composed the scores for shows such as Raised by Wolves, Dark, Fortitude and Sleeping Beauty.

This is a must watch featurette on the making of The Deep:

Baltasar Kormákur will be known to many for his series Trapped which also stars Ólafur Darri Ólafsson and the new Netflix series Katla.

Theatrical poster for The Deep with awards wins and no, nations including Academy Award Entry note

⚠️ This review contains unavoidable spoilers⚠️


I do love a film based on a true story as the base in reality often immediately heightens the jeopardy, shock and horror and often the awe. Often these movies will leave me emotionally affected and I asked myself whether this film by the acclaimed director and writer Baltasar Kormákur would have a similar effect upon me?

The first half an hour of The Deep establishes the characters involved in this story of a tragedy and an astounding feat of determination and will to live. We meet the men who will go out on the trawler with their strengths and weaknesses and their families. We get to see the way God, faith and prayer have a role to play in the lives of these people who in many ways live so near to the edge.

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (left) as Gulli and Björn Thors (right) as Hannes in a scene on board the ship in The Deep.

Gulli is an overweight, mild-mannered and unassuming man. He is certainly not on the face of it stereotypical “hero” material. His crewmates vary from his best friend, to the violent, to a very heavy drinker to the newbie.

We say goodbye to their families with them and join the crew as they board the ageing vessel and set out to sea to trawl for fish in the harsh and dangerous environment of the North Atlantic. Fishing is not proving to be much of a success and early on they experience a serious issue with the trawling gear which is luckily resolved.

The actual capsizing and sinking are brilliantly conveyed, harrowing and horrific. As someone who has been down to the sea in ships and who knows mariners, this is the fear everyone has. The sea is a dangerous and unforgiving force of Nature. Do NOT expect any Hollywood style dramatic dialogue in this film (after all this IS Icelandic realism). Many films and shows that involve the sinking of ships rely heavily upon CGI but knowing that the director really capsized and sank a vessel to make this film makes everything feel so real – because it is.

From the loss of all Gulli’s crewmates (friends) there comes the terrible realisation that he is all alone, six miles out to sea, in rough waters, in the dark. The air temperature is below freezing and the water only 5 degrees above. By rights, he should die from hypothermia… Seagulls keep him company as he swims for shore through the heavy waves. And even when he reaches land his ordeal is not yet over as he has to then re-enter the waves which are crashing upon the rocks to reach a point where he can walk, barefoot over volcanic scree.

Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Gulli reaching the shore in The Deep. He stands on volcanic bolders with waves crashing around him.

Ultimately he reaches a safe haven.

The final part of this film revolves around the scientific tests that were performed in Reykjavik and London to ascertain how and why Gulli did not die of hypothermia (in fact never showed signs of severe hypothermia). At this point, you can see the deep psychological (and physical) impact upon him from the trauma and ordeal and of being the lone survivor.

“I just don’t want anybody to be left with my debts.”

“And then you can have me. Then you can take me, you hear? When I’ve said what I need to say, somewhat I have to do.”

This has a phenomenal central performance by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson! The physical demands of water immersion, the swim, the climb, the walk, the tests (there was one with iced water that left me feeling like the other test subjects just watching it!) As I was watching I found myself exclaiming out loud “How the hell did they film this?” This was especially true for the scenes on the rocky shore with the Atlantic waves crashing over Gulli. (If you want to see exactly how they did this take a look at the featurette in “Notes” above).

All other performances are solid and realistic with actors conveying their characters well. There are physical demands put upon other members of the ship’s crew and deep emotional demands upon those left behind.

The cinematography in this film is amazing! From aerials to shots at head height in the water, waves crashing into the camera and shots taken at depth below the surface. One of my favourite shots was when Gulli is floating, looking up at the stars and the Northern Lights.

One of the effective visual devices to help the viewer is the use of original footage and mock original footage. The real footage is used to show us flashbacks such as a volcanic eruption when Gulli was a child. The mock footage is for when he imagines what he will do if he survives.

The use of sound and the music score are other standout features of this film (watch with a good sound system or headphones if you possibly can). The ambient score enhances everything that happens. I love the theme song! (See link at the end)

This film has a truth and realism about it which I really appreciated. It is surely vital to create something with honesty and truthfulness when it is a story of real people whose friends and relatives are still living and The Deep does this perfectly.

Some may feel that the film loses a little something in the final part which revolves around the tests but this is as near to real life as it can get. Here we finally focus upon the lone survivor and those who were left behind.

“Have they been found?”

I can definitely highly recommend The Deep as an impactful, beautifully made, realistic film about a real man and a real tragedy. Watching this film certainly made me want to reach for a nice, warm Icelandic sweater and a cup of hot chocolate!

“Dead sailors are best kept in a watery grave.”


11 wins and 10 nominations ~

Edda Award, Iceland (2013) Best Film, Director of the Year, Actor of the Year, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Set Design, Best Sound, Best Music, Best Visual Effects

The Deep was also Iceland’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards making the January shortlist. It was also nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize 2013.


Theme song Starálfur by Sigur Rós, Spotify Link:

Reviews of other Baltasar Kormákur productions:

Katla an Icelandic show on Netflix ~ a Review
The Oath a Film by Baltasar Kormákur ~ Review

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