THE DEEP END
Review by Michael Jacobson
Tilda Swinton, Goran Visnjic, Jonathan Tucker, Peter Donat
Directors: Scott McGehee and David Siegel
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: April 16, 2002
want you to stay away from my son.”
bless the sanctity of motherhood. We
may never understand what gives a mother her instincts to nurture and protect,
but if not for them, we wouldn’t have The Deep End, one of the most
intelligent and well-crafted thrillers to come along in many a season.
mother is Margaret Hall (played to perfection by Tilda Swinton), a woman who’s
practically a single parent with three kids to take care of while their father
is away in the Navy. As the picture
opens, she makes a visit to a seedy looking nightclub called The Deep End to
warn the owner to stay away from her son for reasons that become apparent very
ensue…the man ends up dead on their property.
Margaret jumps to the most explicable but wrong conclusion.
She begins the process of protecting her son Beau (Tucker) in a series of
memorable sequences where she tries to think of everything.
She can’t bring herself to ask her son the most important question…did
he do it?
a stranger appears in their lives. His
name is Alek Spera (Visnjic), and he too has the wrong idea in mind.
He has evidence that will look bad against Beau.
He wants $50,000 by the next day to keep it out of the hands of the
deliberately being vague here…this movie is rich in satisfying surprises and
turns, and to give too much away would be criminal. Best of all, not all of the twists are dramatic jolts…some
are simply quietly unexpected moments. Like
when Alek returns to the Hall residence and finds a crisis…his subsequent
actions might suggest he’s not a man who enjoys turning the screws.
film is anchored by Swinton’s performance as a strong, capable woman who
doesn’t fall to pieces under duress. She
is a mother first and foremost, and being a mother doesn’t stop for anything.
Scenes in which she helps juggle her kids’ schedules and her
father-in-law’s needs while at the same time trying to come up with an obscene
amount of cash in a short time inspire admiration and awe.
I think I was coming apart more watching her in her moments than she was
in experiencing them!
noteworthy is Goran Visnjic as Alek…his is a complex character in its own
right. Personally, I liked that
both his performance and the script allowed Alek to serve as more than a
catalyst, but as a morally ambiguous factor as well.
Schott McGehee and David Siegel are great storytellers, but more importantly,
they are cinematic storytellers. Comfortable
craftsmen with the scope ratio at their disposal, the way they fill the screen
with information is both stylish and in service of the narrative.
Their sense of timing and pacing keep their movie elevated to an almost
Hitchcockian level of character-driven suspense.
the film has one flaw, and it seems like a minor one…it’s that things
resolve just a little too neatly at the end.
A story that has faith in its basic human complexities shouldn’t try to
tidy up too much in the stretch run. Given
the journey to that point, though, this misstep is highly forgivable.
the most part, I was simply impressed at how smart and real the story seemed.
Too many thrillers these days are just too clever for their own good.
This is a film with brains, respect for its characters, and a sense of
truth about how we might behave under duress.
The Deep End satisfies…if not completely, at least to a higher
level than any suspense movie in recent years.
to Fox for an exemplary anamorphic transfer…The Deep End is impressive
from start to finish. Both well-lit
scenes and darker, moodier ones come across with great detail and integrity.
Images are sharply rendered, colors are natural looking and well
contained, and there are no noticeable instances of grain or break-up to scar
the visuals. A first rate effort all around.
5.1 audio is quite good, given that this is a picture mostly driven by dialogue.
There are a handful of scenes on the road or in the water where front and
rear stages open up nicely for a full and well balanced listening experience.
The .1 channel serves these sequences, as well as the musical cues.
Most dialogue is on the front stage, and it’s cleanly rendered
throughout. Dynamic range comes
from a few potent sequences as well.
disc starts with a commentary track by writers/producers/directors Scott McGehee
and David Siegel. There are two
featurettes: a very short
promotional one, and a longer, better and more in depth Sundance Channel
“Anatomy of a Scene” special. Rounding
out is a trailer, a TV spot, and a stills gallery.