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last update 20.Jul.13
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The Deep
3.5/5   Djúpið
dir Baltasar Kormakur
scr Jon Atli Jonasson, Baltasar Kormakur
prd Agnes Johansen, Baltasar Kormakur
with Olafur Darri Olafsson, Johann G Johannsson, Thorbjorg Helga Thorgilsdottir, Theodor Juliusson, Maria Sigurdardottir, Bjorn Thors, Throstur Leo Gunnarsson, Gudjon Pedersen, Walter Grimsson, Stefan Hallur Stefansson, Terry Gunnell, Kristjan Franklin Magnuss
The Deep
release Ice 12.Sep.12,
UK 12.Jul.13
12/Iceland 1h36

edinburgh film fest
The Deep Based on true events from 1984, this low-key drama tells a frankly amazing story without adding overdramatic flourishes. That isn't to say it's like a doc: it's a straight retelling of events that are rather hard to believe, but remain intriguingly grounded in the real world.

On a remote southern island in Iceland, Gulli (Olafsson) works on a fishing boat with his mates (Johansson, Thors and Stefansson), plus a new cook (Grimsson). But in the middle of the night their nets snag on rocks, capsizing the boat and leaving Gulli in near-freezing water. His only option is to swim for shore, wherever that may be. And five or six hours later, he miraculously makes it to an island. Scientists are baffled and the media is fascinated by this beefy, matter-of-fact fisherman. But he just wants to get back to his life.

Kormakur gives the film a dry, funny, realistic tone, establishing the characters before horrifically upending everything. Intriguingly, the script undercuts Gulli's heroism by never presenting him as a man driven by anything beyond a survival instinct. His only history with sport is as a member of a chess club. His fitter best pal Palli (Johansson) is more desperate to survive for his wife (Thorgilsdottir) and two children back home, but simply can't cope with the icy water.

So Gulli's swim takes on mythical qualities, intercut with footage of a massive volcanic explosion. And there's a sense that his conversation with a nearby seagull leads him to the island, which looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland littered with razor-sharp rocks he has to cross in bare feet. All of this combines to make the film feel somewhat dark and gloomy, and very sad as Gulli faces the fact that his colleagues have died.

There's a fascinating, involving central thesis here about how impossible it is to test a miracle. Everyone wants to know why Gulli survived, but even travelling to London for a series of experiments (alongside ridiculously fit soldiers) fails to explain it. Kormakur keeps the film understated, with muted performances and a refusal to sensationalise anything. It's a terrific idea to make a seemingly thrilling story so mundane, but it also leaves the film feeling rather dull.

15 themes, language, some grisliness
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Easy Money
3/5   Snabba Cash
dir Daniel Espinosa
scr Maria Karlsson
prd Fredrik Wikstrom
with Joel Kinnaman, Matias Padin Varela, Dragomir Mrsic, Lisa Henni, Mahmut Suvakci, Jones Danko, Lea Stojanov, Dejan Cukic, Miodrag Stojanovic, Joel Spira, Christian Hillborg, Annika Ryberg Whittembury
release Swe 15.Jan.10,
US 11.Jul.12, UK 19.Jul.13
10/Sweden 2h04

london film festival
Easy Money This Swedish crime thriller may grab attention because of the extremely stylish filmmaking, but it's overlong and never as original as the filmmakers seem to think it is. A fairly routine plot with characters who are only deepened with cinematic gimmicks, this is one of those rare movies that might improve with an American remake.

From a poor part of Sweden, JW (Kinnaman) has re-invented himself at university as a posh guy with a business mind. He secretly makes cash working for a local Arabic gangster (Suvakci), who hears that Latino drug dealer Jorge (Varela) has broken out of prison and is offering his connections in exchange for part of the action. But a rival Serbian thug (Cukic) sends muscleman Mrado (Mrsic) to get Jorge's contacts for himself, and soon the two gangs are locked in battle. Then JW and Mrado realise they're the pawns in a bigger war.

Since there's nothing particularly new about the plot, the script stirs in personal details: JW has a posh new girlfriend (Henni) who never suspects his nefarious dark side, Jorge has a pregnant sister (Whittembury), and Mrado is suddenly left caring for his 8-year-old daughter (Stojanov). Of course, these details make all three men much more interesting, but since each subplot feels tacked on, none of the emotional connections feel honest.

This certainly isn't the actors' fault. All three deliver meaty performances as men who are deeply haunted by the realisation that they are involved in something that more than likely will not end happily. They come to this realisation at different times, so the raw desperation is palpable, as is each man's need to survive. Although it's all drenched in all-consuming greed: everyone on screen would sell out their best pal for more cash.

Yes, there's more than a whiff of cautionary moralising here. It's impossible to watch the twists and turns and strangulations of the plot without feeling like there's a disembodied voice asking, "If you play with fire, what do you expect will happen?" Espinosa directs the film with a slick visual sheen and edgy, jittering editing, so it looks terrific. But as it rattles into the final half-hour, we start to lose patience with the cliched settings and narrative.

15 themes, language, violence
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dir Emanuele Crialese
scr Vittorio Moroni, Emanuele Crialese
prd Marco Chimenz, Fabio Conversi, Giovanni Stabilini, Riccardo Tozzi
with Filippo Pucillo, Donatella Finocchiaro, Giuseppe Fiorello, Mimmo Cuticchio, Tiziana Lodato, Martina Codecasa, Filippo Scarafia, Pierpaolo Spollon, Rubel Tsegay Abraha, Francesco Casisa, Timnit T, Claudio Santamaria
release It 7.Sep.11,
UK Oct.11 lff, US 26.Jul.13
11/Italy 1h28


london film festival
Terraferma Filmmaker Crialese once again captures the atmosphere of rural Italian life in this darkly involving drama, which loses some of its warmth when a more politically oriented plot takes over. But it holds our interest with lively, realistic characters and settings.

On the tiny island of Linosa, south of Sicily, Filippo (Pucillo) works with his grandfather Ernesto (Cuticchio) on the fishing boat once owned by his father, who was lost at sea years ago. His mother Guilietta (Finocchiaro) holds things together, along with Ernesto's surviving son Nino (Fiorello). One day at sea, Fillippo and Ernesto find a raft overloaded with illegal immigrants from Africa. They rescue a handful who have fallen overboard, then are hounded by police who say anti-immigration rules trump the ancient seafaring law that you never leave someone to drown.

The film is packed with collisions between old and new worlds. Nino wants to sell the boat for scrap so his father can relax into retirement, but Ernesto can't bear to think of it. Meanwhile, the naive Filippo's thoughts are turning more to dry land, as he buys a new scooter and is teased mercilessly by the other boys in town. Guilietta wants to take Filippo and leave the island altogether, so he can meet new people and grow up a bit.

All of the actors bring earthy emotion to their roles, while Crialese photographs the island so gorgeously that we wish we lived there too. At least until the ferry to disgorge a mob of boisterous tourists. Three of these (Codecasa, Scarafia and Spollon) rent Giuletta's house, potentially endangering the refugees hidden there, including one who's heavily pregnant. They have spent two years struggling across North Africa, and yet the police have no compassion for them.

It's difficult to believe that the cops would be quite this brutal, but this allows our heroes Filippo, Ernesto and Giulietta to help these people get to terraferma, the solid ground of Italy where they can disappear into Europe. Some of the film's shifts from idyllic romanticism to cruel violence are abrupt, but the connections between characters resonate strongly. And in the end we can't help but cheer for the good guys, even if they're on the wrong side of the law.

15 themes, language, violence
14.Oct.11 lff
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4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Haifaa Al Mansour
prd Gerhard Meixner, Roman Paul
with Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Faoziah Alyaaqop, Mohammed Zahir, Dana Abdullilah, Rehab Ahmed, Alanoud Sajini, Rafa Al Sanea, Nouf Saad
mohammed and gohani release US Sep.12 tff,
UK 19.Jul.13
12/Saudi Arabia 1h38

london film festival
Wadjda Sensitive and charming, this involving drama takes a remarkably upbeat approach to the realities of a young girl's life in Saudi Arabia. And it's especially notable as a rare movie made by a female Saudi filmmaker. With warm honesty and skilful filmmaking it highlights seriously intense issues without ever feeling preachy.

At a girls' school in Riyadh, 10-year-old Wadjda (Mohammed) is always in trouble for daydreaming. And her teacher (Ahd) wants her to wear a full head-covering to school from now on. Curious and friendly, she lives with her loving parents (Abdullah and Assaf) in a nice house and has her eye on buying a a green bicycle so she can race neighbour boy Abdullah (Gohani). Even though girls aren't allowed to ride bikes, Wadjda embarks on a series of schemes to earn the cash for the bike, even entering a tough Koran competition.

Filmmaker Mansour vividly captures the realities of life for Saudi women, revealing the same desires and emotions everyone on earth has. Wadjda is a typical teen who likes pop music, jeans and Converse trainers, but when she goes outside she has to cover herself head to toe. Her educational, personal and professional options are harshly limited and, even as a preteen, she's constantly subjected to sexist comments from men on the streets.

With a gentle pace and an offhanded sense of humour, the film quietly reveals details such as how it's a female's job to get out of view of any men. They also have to get a man's permission to do pretty much anything. And with thick black veils, family pictures are frankly absurd. Naturally, all of this seems preposterous to Wadjda, who is only starting to realise how restrictive her life will be. And without a son, her mother is worried that her husband will take a second wife.

Wadja's tenacity is fascinating: she enters a Koran-reading competition even though her reading is iffy at best, and she's never actually ridden a bike. She simply can't bear the thought that it's forbidden, like seemingly everything else. And she refuses to give in to what's expected of her, even as she plays the game. Watching her rise to every challenge in her life, while it might feel both ironic and idealistic, is truly inspirational.

PG themes, some language
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