Many documentaries about ecological crises often commence by instilling fear in their viewers before introducing a touch of restrained hope. However, in the case of “Deep Rising,” a film centered on the race to mine the deep seabed, particularly the floor beneath the vast Clarion-Clipperton Zone in the Pacific, director Matthieu Rytz opts for awe over shock and measured persuasion over incendiary rhetoric.
Rytz’s choice of the two central characters proves to be rich in dialectical substance. Gerard Barron, the hipster CEO of The Metals Company, a Canadian mining company specializing in extracting polymetallic nodules containing minerals like nickel, manganese, cobalt, and copper, which are in high demand in the green economy. (We even hear Elon Musk exclaiming, “Please get nickel!” in an audio clip.) On the other hand, Sandor Mulsow is a warm and earnest marine geologist, the former head of the Office of Environmental Management and Mineral Resources at the International Seabed Authority, the organization entrusted by the U.N. with the protection of the ocean floor.
The string-led score by composer Olafur Arnalds and the resonant narration by actor Jason Momoa contribute to the film’s argument that when it comes to the world’s biodiversity and the still enigmatic environments of the seafloor, caution and care should take precedence.
The footage of iridescent creatures with billowing tentacles or translucent bodies captivates the audience, offering contemplative interludes amidst the documentary’s presentation of facts, interviews, and the damning history of the mining industry. The source of optimism in this film lies in the director’s trust in the audience’s ability to grapple with the intertwined destinies of the seafloor, its inhabitants, and humanity.