Deep Movie Review: A disappointing film, especially after its strong start
A badly conceived film that fails to engage after the first twenty-odd minutes
Deep is engaging for all of fifteen minutes – the initial part where the focus is solely on central character Jane (Panisara Rikulsurakan) and her challenging circumstances. Up until then, her favourite professor’s lecture on insomnia and all its effects pulls you in. You want to know where this thriller with its theme of sleep deprivation will take you. You are invested in Jane’s insomnia and her obsessive-compulsive disorder. You can believe that she will go to many lengths to ensure her ageing grandmother and her truant younger sister aren’t affected by the mortgage payments falling behind. You want her to be able to finish medical school and put that brain to good use. It is only after she visits the laboratory for the experimental neuroscientific trial do things take a turn for the worse. And, turn they do!
Director – Sita Likitvanichkul, Jetarin Ratanaserikiat, Apirak Samudkidpisan, Thanabodee Uawithya, Adirek Wattaleela
Cast – Panisara Rikulsurakan, Kay Lertsittichai, Supanaree Sutavijitvong, Krit Jeerapattananuwong
Streaming On – Netflix
Jane’s professor hands her a visiting card belonging to a German pharmaceutical company conducting experimental drug research – participate, get through it, and there’s money to be had. Jane can’t afford to lose the house or let her family down. If one signs up with the company’s Deep programme, a microchip is inserted into one’s neck. The said chip harvests the amount of Qratonin released by the brain - a substance released only when awake, making it the opposite of Melatonin. A watch, which monitors the participant’s heartbeat and shows the amount of Qratonin harvested, must be worn at all times. Once the watch shows 100 per cent, it has to be returned, and the microchip can be removed. The programme comprises of three levels. The kicker in all of this can be best described as ludicrous – the way in which it is conveyed to the viewer. After Jane is briefed on the whole procedure (including the 100,000 baht she will receive if Level 1 is a success), she signs the contract. Before heading out the door, Hans Miller, the head of the research facility, tells her matter-of-factly, “Oh, there is one thing you should know first. You must not fall asleep, ever. If you fall asleep for more than sixty seconds, the microchip may short-circuit, and it may stop your heart. Don’t worry if you fall asleep. This watch will warn you before reaching sixty seconds. I guarantee you, it’s safe.” The disconcerted look on Jane’s face and the mock-concern on Miller’s had me laughing, as she signs her name on the dotted line in just the previous scene…clearly didn’t look at any clauses involving sudden death, now did we?
It can be argued that even up until that point, Deep doesn’t lose your attention – not completely, at least. Enter the other three pieces in the puzzle – sidekicks to the straight-shooting Jane – and see your interest plummet. The trio, fellow insomniac classmates at Jane’s medical school, is sketched out of a terribly predictable playbook. First there’s Win (Kay Lertsittichai), a hard-partying adrenaline junkie for whom twenty-four hours is not enough. Then there’s Cin (Supanaree Sutavijitvong), an over-the-top Instagram influencer obsessed with her image and traffic on her page. And finally, we have Peach (Krit Jeerapattananuwong), a socially awkward gamer with powerful spectacles. Add the ever-studious and responsible doctor-in-the-making Jane to this and we have ourselves the oddest foursome ever. Once they find out that they’ve all signed up with Deep for Level 1, the bonding begins. The exploration of this friendship angle is handled very poorly by the six directors and equally numbered writers of the film. Not for one moment do we buy how close they get to one another in such a short span. Their shared insomnia and Deep tie them together, we get that. However, this supposedly pally behaviour is anything but realistic in its portrayal. To complicate matters, the reticent and awkward Peach harbours feelings for Cin.
The film’s beginning has potential, and the writers could well have made it into a watchable effort. But with the plot and story falling away (and falling away fast) after Jane’s first visit to the experimental drug facility, it gets impossible to salvage. One wonders how it takes a total of six directors (many of whom are credited as writers too) to come up with such a shoddy end-product? Panisara Rikulsurakan’s Jane is earnest and believable through it all, and yet the story fails to back her up in any significant way. We see multiple thrillers and horror films from the far east (Japanese, Korean, and Thai) set in the confines of educational institutions. And several of these are quite effective, hitting their intended mark. It’s safe to say that Deep will not be included in that aforementioned list. Watch the first fifteen or twenty minutes before switching to something else.