The Good, The Bad and the Sleepy
Sleep deprivation is not fun. Sleep deprivation on account of drug addiction is even worse. As someone who’s been down that slippery slope and experienced hallucinations, dizziness, paranoia and a horrible dose of confusion, a lack of sleep can really mess with your brain. And that was after staying up for close to 50 hours.
When it comes to the teens in Netflix’s latest sci-fi drama Deep, these guys are staying up for days on end. As one would expect, things soon become ugly.
This Thai drama centers on a group of insomniac med-students who are encouraged to sign up for an experimental procedure known simply as The Deep. This project involves injecting a chip and extracting a chemical known as Qratonin. This is the opposite of Melatonin, which is the body’s “sleep drug”. The experiment in question involves extracting Qratonin on behalf of a pharmaceutical company called ‘Weimar’.
This experiment is split across three different levels, with various consequences and side-effects for each. While the first level sees the kids sail through unscathed, levels 2 and 3 however quickly escalate into supremely turbulent waters.
The teens in question are pretty straightforward in their motivations, with our central protagonist a girl called Jane. She’s a quiet student who’s top of her class and the sole caregiver for her sister and grandmother. Unfortunately, the family are swimming in debt and she needs to make money – fast. Given shes an insomniac and the project is paying well, joining The Deep seems like a no-brainer.
Joining her for the ride is Win, a troubled student who spends most of his time partying. By contrast there’s Cin, who happens to be the most popular girl at university. However, societal pressure has forced her to start taking pills in order to fall asleep. Rounding out the team is Peach, who’s a loner and spends most of his time playing video games.
The characters do have pretty consistent arcs across the movie, with the ending in particular doing well to round out their stories in a satisfying manner. While some could grumble that their actions during levels 2 and 3 of the experiment are a little erratic and contrived, sleep deprivation can do crazy things to people, and the script is certainly aware of that. In essence, these segments feel like a glorified get-out-of-jail-free card.
There are some nice twist and turns in this too, although you definitely need to suspend your disbelief with the premise and ideas that are presented here. In a way, this movie feels like a mash-up of Ghost Lab, Mandarin series On Children and 2016’s Nerve. The result is a film that has some nice ideas at its core but doesn’t quite mold them in a way that makes for a wholly satisfying watch.
The pacing is a bit of a problem here too and despite the 100 minute run-time, Deep never quite feels like it settles into a consistent rhythm. That’s a shame because visually this one is a real looker.
There’s some gorgeously stylized shots, with scenes bathed in neon light and engaging montages. The usual dizzying array off blur filters and rotating shots are on offer during the sleep deprivation scenes too, while the cast complement these visuals nicely with some solid acting.
Deep is not the best film this year, and it’s certainly not without its problems. However, if you can switch off and take to the premise, Deep does have some stand-out moments – including a nice little twist at the end. It’s just a pity that those moments are drowned out by an overwhelming sea of mediocrity that grips this sci-fi picture.
There’s definitely enough here to reel you in, but whether what’s here will see you through to the conclusion without feeling the pull of melatonin remains to be seen.