Deep Water
IFC Films // PG // $24.95 // December 18, 2007
Review by Ian Jane | posted January 17, 2008
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The Movie:

The 2006 British documentary Deep Water is an interesting look at a man named Donald Crowhurst who, in 1967, despite his lack of experience, decided he should enter a sailing competition requiring him to engage in a continuous around the world trip all by himself. This would be difficult enough for a master sailor, let alone an amateur like Crowhurst, but he signed up for the race and did his best to compete against eight other sailors.

It goes without saying that things don't go so well for Donald...

The quote on the front of the case for this DVD, attributed to Logan Hill of New York Magazine, describes the film as 'Grizzly Man meets The Perfect Storm' which is a pretty accurate way of summing it all up. Like Herzog's excellent film, we know it's going to end poorly for the central character but the set up is done so well that we can't turn away from it. The film paints an interesting portrait of its subject through news clips, interviews with those who knew him, and archival photographs and while we can't really walk away from the film feeling like we really knew him, we're at least able to get an understanding of how his actions affected his friends and family and why he wanted to try to complete the race in the first place - it was, to put it simply, his dream.

Despite the fact that we know early on where the film is going, it's hard not to get wrapped up in it all as it plays out. There's a fair bit of legitimate suspense in the picture that keeps things interesting and the fact that so much of the story is told using actual artifacts from the race really give it a much appreciated air of legitimacy. The film winds up as an interesting mix of human interest story and a tragic case of a rather misguided man who, good intentions or not, really left a lot of people in pain through his actions. Tilda Swinton provides some fascinating and very respectful narration that keeps everything tightly in context.

Ultimately, the picture gives us a look at a fight that could never be won. A single man takes on the ocean. It's simply impossible that man of Crowhurst's ability (he averaged sixteen miles a day, half of what the other sailors were able to achieve) could have completed such a daunting undertaking but there's no denying that it's fascinating to watch and to at least to try glean an understanding of why he tried in the first place. Anyone who has ever felt over their head or felt that they've bitten off more than they could chew should come away from this film moved, and maybe a little bit shaken.



Deep Water arrives on DVD in a solid 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has strong color reproduction and solid detail levels throughout. The older footage used to flesh out the story obviously doesn't look as good as the newly shot interview clips do but aside from that, there's nothing to complain about here. Print damage is never problematic and there are no issues with edge enhancement or mpeg compression problems to report.


The sole audio option on the DVD is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track that does a fine job with the material at hand. Considering that the bulk of the film is made up of interview bits and archival clips, the surrounds don't get much of a work out but the dialogue is always clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. A few of the clips sound a little worse for wear but that's to be expected - there are no real problems here at all.

Closed captioning is provided in English for the feature only and optional subtitles are provided in Spanish.


IFC has provided four featurettes that shed some further light on the events discussed in the film, starting with The Sailor's Stories which profiles nine of the other sailors who were affected by Crowhurst's attempts: Chay Blyth (5:20), Alex Carrozo (text only), Donald Crowhurst (text only), Loick Fougeron (text only), Bill Leslie King (6:14), Robin Knox-Johnson (10:04), Bernard Moitessier (6:25), John Ridgeway (text only), and Nigel Tetley (7:06). There are some interesting stories in here as well as some biographical information that tells us where these men came from, how they got into sailing, and what they've done since the race. The Journalists' Story (11:18) details what the New York Times reporters and other journalists went through to cover the story while The Family's Story (6:47) obviously examines what some of the Crowhurt went through while watching their beloved family member risk his life. Last but not least is The Abandoned Boat which is an interactive map of the boat that was found 700 miles off of Azores that uses photos and tape recordings to recreate the ship.

Rounding out the extra features are the film's theatrical trailer (2:32, non-anamorphic widescreen), animated menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Deep Water looks and sounds good and contains some interesting extras which effectively compliment a genuinely interesting feature attraction. Recommended.

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