Film review: 'Deep Water' is pretty heady stuff

Published: Friday, Oct. 12 2007 2:10 a.m. MDT

DEEP WATER — *** — Documentary feature about the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe sailing competition; rated PG (profanity, violence)

It's really surprising that Hollywood hasn't tried to make a dramatic feature about the ill-fated 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe competition, in which nearly a dozen men attempted to sail yachts and other one-man watercraft around the world.

This is the kind of material that seems well-suited for the big-screen treatment, especially for a filmmaker like Peter Weir, who dealt with some similar themes in his masterful 2003 film "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World." But so far, only the documentary feature "Deep Water" has even broached the subject.

Fortunately, it treats the material with respect and with real smarts. This is pretty heady stuff, and it's constantly enthralling, particularly for something that has to use so much second-hand information.

"Deep Water" somewhat mimics the format of the 2003 documentary/docudrama hybrid "Touching the Void," which also used some dramatic re-enactments and other re-creations to fill in a few of the story blanks. (Both films come from some of the same producers.) Co-directors Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell interview some of the families of the competitors, including the children and widow of Donald Crowhurst.

An English engineer and unsuccessful businessman, Crowhurst was convinced his revolutionary design — for a craft he called a trimaran — would help him win. In fact, he nearly bankrupted his family just to enter the contest.

Unfortunately, he wasn't much of a sailor, and technical problems kept him from departing until the very last minute. Meanwhile, his much-more-experienced competitors had nearly a full month's lead on him.

Osmond and Rothwell really concentrate on Crowhurst's story, though one surviving competitor, Robin Knox-Johnston, is interviewed as well.

Actors Simon Russell Beale and Jean Badin read some of Crowhurst's and fellow competitor Bernard Moitessier's writings, including some journal entries.

While that might make the movie sound talk-heavy, the filmmakers do keep the chatter to a minimum. They use Tilda Swinton's narration only when it's absolutely necessary. And the use of footage that was shot by some of the competitors helps show just what the treacherous conditions were really like.

"Deep Water" is rated PG for scattered profanity, scenes of violent storms and some adult themes. Running time: 93 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS