Judge Gordon Sullivan keeps to the shallow end.
Our review of The Deep End, published April 8th, 2002, is also available.
Still waters run deadly.
Tilda Swinton is one of the few actresses working today who can effortlessly go from the most out-there bit of independent filmmaking to the most mainstream of blockbusters. Somehow she manages to both always disappear into her various roles while also always being Tilda Swinton. It's a quality we often associate with Hollywood movies stars but is more rarely seen in the 21st century. But it's Swinton's biggest asset, and one that's seeing more recognition. In 2013, she was involved in at least three projects (Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, and The Zero Theorem) that have seen her talents lauded from all quarters. That makes it the perfect time to revisit some of her past achievements, especially the more overlooked ones. Enter The Deep End, an atypical thriller that unites a fantastic performance from Swinton with direction that is clockwork in its precision.
Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton, Caravaggio) is angling for the World's Best Mom award. She'll do anything for her son, including telling off one of his "friends" if he's being a bad influence. When that bad influence show's up dead at her lake house, Margarget assumes her son committed the murder and sets about covering it up. That's only the start of an increasingly weird set of circumstances that tighten a noose around Margaret and her son.
The best thrillers do two things well: set up a series of narrative dominoes and then knock them down, one by one. That's certainly what The Deep End does. The first act of the film does a really effective job setting up Margaret Hall and her world. She's in total control of both herself and her son. Swinton is unrelenting in projecting a fierce protectiveness of her son that's intimidating even if it is fictional. Then the mystery of the dead "friend" is introduced, and Margaret's cover up starts the chain of events that constitute the thriller portion of the film. We get Margaret's attempts to cover things up (including dumping the body, but also getting rid of his car) along with the further complications (including a mysterious blackmailer). The rest of the plot moves like clockwork, further embroiling Margaret in danger, even as her son suspects her of the murder.
As far as thrillers go, The Deep End isn't afraid to throw a lot of psychological baggage, in grand Hitchcockian fashion, on top of the basic elements. In addition to the positively Oedipal relationship between the overprotective Margaret and her too-tender son, Beau, there's the intimation that Beau and the dead guy are lovers (though Beau denies it). These slightly twisted relationships add an extra layer of tension to the basics of the plot.
Fox gives The Deep End a solid Blu-ray release. The 2.40:1/1080p AVC encoded transfer is okay for a film nearing its 15th anniversary. The film's colors are appropariately saturated, with a bit of pop here and there. Detail is generally pretty strong, but there are some halo effects, indicating some of the sharpness has been achieved with software. Darker scenes suffer the most, with a few containing noticeable compression artifacts. It's not terribly distracting or a horrible transfer, just not the kind of note-perfect presentations we expect from contemporary films. The film's DTS-HD 5.1 track fares a bit better…dialogue is clean and clear from the front, with the surrounds getting some good activity during more tense moments in the film.
Extras are ported over from the previous DVD release and start with a commentary track featuring co-directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee. The pair talk a lot about location shooting and the technical aspects of the film as well as the aspects of the film that make it more than just a thriller. A 24 minute featurette from the Sundance Channel's ?Anatomy of a Scene? series that looks at a scene between Margaret and her blackmailer. A short EPK-style featurette runs two minutes and includes some interviews and clips. Finally, the film's trailer and a TV spot are also included.
The Deep End is dark, which might turn off some viewers. Also, like many thrillers the film has to strain against the bounds of credibility to pull off its story. Of course if Tilda Swinton's otherworldly charms aren't your kind of thing, then this will likely leave you cold.
The Deep End is an above-average thriller that leverages a potent performance from the fierce Tilda Swinton. Fans who own the DVD probably won't need to upgrade, but this Blu-ray is certainly worth a rental for fans of Swinton or thrillers in general.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2014 Gordon Sullivan; Site design and review layout copyright © 2016 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.