Movie Review: 'The Deep Blue Sea' -- 2.5 stars

Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz.

Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz. (Credit: Tom Hiddleston and Rachel Weisz.)

The Deep Blue Sea
2.5 stars
Directed by Terence Davies
Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, Simon Russell Beale
Rated R

"The Deep Blue Sea," Terence Davies' eloquent but stodgy adaptation of a Terence Rattigan play, is a long way removed from its namesake 1999 flick "Deep Blue Sea," in which a giant man-eating shark devoured Samuel L. Jackson.

There's no place for sea creatures in this '50s-set film about the affair between a married British woman Hester (Rachel Weisz) and a Royal Air Force pilot named Freddie (Tom Hiddleston), but it desperately needs a shot of sheer visceral energy.

As it stands, it's admirable but stiff, a collection of beautiful visual compositions, deliberate long takes and all-around distinguished dramatics that remains perilously detached from start to finish. Any hint of genuine, tangible feeling is buried so far beneath the polished exterior that the film feels like it belongs in a museum.

There are some pluses: Weisz is the picture of strength as Hester, who is torn between her marriage of comfort to William (Simon Russell Beale) and an affair of passion with Freddie - "the devil and the deep blue sea," as she puts it. It's a sharp, formalist performance that resists the usual female-victim stereotypes. Proud and independent, Hester is defined by her own desires and feelings, not by what she's supposed to feel.

An accomplished filmmaker whose last narrative feature was an adaptation of Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth," Davies lets the scenes play out as they would onstage, with just a modicum of stylistic interference. With his slow camera movements and patient sensibility, he trusts the actors and Rattigan's intelligent dialogue to reveal the depths of Hester's despair.

The gambit almost works. But there's an abiding coldness to "The Deep Blue Sea," a rigidity that prevents its viewers from achieving the full-scale immersion they desire. 

Tags: Entertainment , Movie Review , Robert Levin , The Deep Blue Sea

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