One of a series of entertaining, well-written and intelligent thrillers to come out over the past year, "The Deep End" is a quiet, subtle movie that somehow still manages to sustain tension as the film's deliberate pace moves forward. The film stars Tilda Swinton as Margaret Hall, the mother of a seemingly rather usual household in the woods. She looks over a couple of children, the oldest of which is Beau (Jonathan Tucker), who has been involved with a bar owner, Darby Reese (Josh Lucas), who she thinks could be dangerous.
Darby offered Margaret the option of staying away for $5,000, which would cover his gambling debts. When she refuses, Darby shows up at their house anyways, resulting in an arguement between himself and Beau. In the morning, Margaret finds Darby's body washed up on the beach not far away. Instantly thinking that Beau was responsible, she covers up the evidence.
When it seems as if she's succeeded, Alek (Gorjan Visnjic of "ER") arrives with evidence that could be incriminating. He asks for $50,000 in return and hardly gives Margaret any time to come up with the money. The film succeeds as well as it does thanks mainly to the performance of Swinton, whose interesting face and emotional, engaging effort clearly convinces of her intent to help her family. Visnjic is very good, as well - he portrays quite well the change from hardened blackmailer to sympathetic.
Overall, the film does run into some trouble as areas become a little too melodramatic and a couple of plot threads seem slightly unbelievable, but these faults didn't cause too much concern. While it never quite builds like I thought it would - I felt it was a little too restrained - I felt the film retained a solid amount of tension - mainly thanks to Swinton.
VIDEO: 20th Century Fox presents "The Deep End" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's cool, gorgeous cinematography is very well-presented by Fox's excellent offering. There are a few imperfections here and there, but far more often than not, this transfer stands up nicely to Fox's reputation of excellence. The picture isn't stunningly sharp, but Giles Nuttgens's cinematography has a crisp, smooth appearance that seems intentionally very slightly soft.
Still, although the picture appeared slightly soft at times, there really weren't any distractions. A slight speck or two on the print used appeared rarely, as did some very minimal grain on a couple of occasions. Other than that, the picture appeared natural and crisp, with no edge enhancement or pixelation.
Colors remained beautiful throughout the film, with the deep blues of the lake and the colors of the surrounding wildlife appearing bright and bold, with no smearing or other flaws. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate. A lovely transfer; as per usual, nice work from Fox.
SOUND: While there certainly isn't much action in the film, the movie's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is still very pleasant, nonetheless. The outdoor sequences have a good helping of enjoyable ambient sounds from the surrounds, especially some of those on the lake, which have waves lightly splashing up from all sides. Audio quality remained very enjoyable, as the highly enjoyable score, effects and dialogue were all crystal clear.
MENUS: Some minor animation livens otherwise rather ordinary backgrounds.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director/writers David Siegel and Scott McGehee. The two have been working together for a little over 10 years now and clearly work together efficently. Although there isn't a lot of discussion about it, it was interesting to hear about how the two are able to share the directing duties. After a rather funny opening, the tone of the commentary calms down a bit, but we are still informed quite a bit about the production and what it was like to work with the actors.
Anatomy of a Scene: This is a 25-minute Sundance Channel feature that, instead of the usual promotional "making ofs", actually takes a very nice step-by-step look at the process, first discussing the film itself, the venturing into writing, acting and the filming process. Interviews with most of the cast and crew are included and all bring an interesting viewpoint to their discussion of both the story and their experience during the making of the film.
Also: Trailer, TV spot, still gallery and featurette.
Final Thoughts: Some faults aside, "The Deep End" is a good thriller/noir with a performance from Swinton that really takes the material to the next level. Fox's DVD edition provides very good audio/video and a small batch of fine supplements.
The Film *** 1/2