Last Breath (2019) Poster

(2019)

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8/10
A great story powerfully told
Bertaut18 April 2019
Aside from space, there can be no working environment as potentially dangerous, perilously exacting, and psychologically isolating as the ocean floor. Colloquially known as "doing sat", saturation diving is a technique to reduce decompression sickness amongst divers who work at great depths for long periods. Living in either an onboard pressurised capsule or a self-sustaining pressurised underwater habitat, divers breathe a helium-oxygen mix that prevents nitrogen narcosis, transferring to and from the work site via a pressurised diving bell. Written by Alex Parkinson and directed by Parkinson and Richard da Costa, Last Breath is the latest in the man vs. nature subgenre of documentary filmmaking. Using a mixture of talking head interviews, black box footage, camcorder material, and excellently mounted reconstructions, the film plays like an underwater survival thriller. And although the directors' insistence on building to a predictable and overly manipulated pseudo-twist undermines the seriousness of the material somewhat, with the story needing no such embellishment, this is still a superbly realised film; tense and fascinating, informatively dealing with a subject about which the vast majority of people will know next-to-nothing.

September 18, 2012; the commercial engineering ship Bibby Topaz is 115 miles off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea, assigned with testing the safety of a drilling manifold in the Huntington Oil Field. Descending in the diving bell are the relatively inexperienced Chris Lemons, the stoic David Yuasa (so much so, his nickname is "Vulcan"), and Lemons's mentor and father-figure Duncan Allcock. As the men descend, the Topaz is hit with bad weather, although not bad enough to cancel the dive (with dive supervisor Craig Frederick explaining, "we were at the limits of diving, but it wasn't undivable"). As Lemons and Yuasa begin working, Allcock remains in the bell to feed out the divers' "umbilicals"; a mass of cables that brings them warm water, light, and oxygen, and keeps them connected to the Topaz's computer and AV systems. At a depth of 300 feet, in pitch blackness, with ten times atmospheric pressure and temperatures just above freezing, without an umbilical, a diver can't last long. With the Topaz locked into position by its Dynamic Positioning (DP) system, everything is going well until the system inexplicably fails, something no one on the boat had ever seen happen. With winds now reaching 35 knots, causing 18-foot swells, the Topaz quickly begins to drift out of position, dragging the bell with it, which in turn drags the men via their umbilicals. Frederick immediately orders Lemons and Yuasa back to the bell, but Lemons's umbilical snags on the manifold, and after being pulled taut, eventually snaps. With only five minutes of emergency oxygen in his reserve tanks, and cut off from all contact with the bell and the surface, his crewmates are horrified to realise it will take them at least 30 minutes to return to their position and try to find him. That's if they can even regain control of the Topaz's DP at all.

Although the talking head interviews are a little flat, the rest of Last Breath looks great, with the reconstructions so well done (it helps that the actual participants play themselves) that they blend seamlessly with the footage shot from the divers' helmet-cams and the Topaz's cameras. The film opens with "first-person" camcorder footage of Lemons giving a tour of the Topaz, explained naturally insofar as he and his fiancée, Morag Martin, tended to send one-another videos rather than writing emails or letters. This inculcates the audience immediately into the milieu, insofar as Lemons is literally explaining the workings of the job, especially important in introducing the concept of saturation diving. Once the repair begins, the film adopts an almost pseudo-science-fiction tone, with the foregrounding of unfamiliar equipment and complex ship computer systems, reminding me of something like The Abyss (1989) or Leviathan (1989).

Also aesthetically important is the score by Paul Leonard-Morgan. Is he aping Hans Zimmer? Absolutely. But there are worse composers to emulate, and it's still an extremely effective score, a little overwrought in places, but it does its job admirably, especially in a scene which sees Yuasa set out to try to find Lemons, with Parkinson and Da Costa using Yuasa's narration over shots of each interviewee silently reflecting on the incident, and Morgan's evocative score swelling in the background.

The film's structure is both its greatest strength and, perhaps, it's most significant failing. It's difficult to discuss this aspect without spoilers, but essentially, Parkinson and Da Costa introduce a twist of sorts in the last act, and the documentary then literally rewinds to give us the perspective of an interviewee we haven't seen up to this point. It's both an interesting and irritating technique; interesting insofar as you don't usually see that kind of structural trickery in a documentary, irritating because it's wholly unnecessary. The directors would have been better served to simply trust in the strength of their story, which is more than able to stand on its own, sans embellishments. And although it isn't as damaging as a similar example in Three Identical Strangers (2018), primarily because the surrounding material is handled more competently, with less crass emotional manipulation, it is nevertheless an ill-advised technique to introduce in a form supposed to eschew sensationalism and narrative chicanery. This is compounded by the fact that it's easy to see it coming, and anyone who spends more than 20 seconds looking into the film will have the twist spoiled, rendering it pointless at best, distracting at worst; running the risk of lessening the impact of the psychological effects that the incident had on the people involved. On the other hand, there's no denying that the structure adds to the mounting tension, I'm just not 100% convinced that the trade-off is worth it.

This misstep notwithstanding, Last Breath is an excellent piece of documentary filmmaking. Although it's not quite up to the dizzying standards of something like One Day in September (1999), Ônibus 174 (2002), Touching the Void (2003), or Under the Wire (2018), there's still a lot to recommend it. Combining elements of the survival documentary subgenre with the aesthetic tropes of the submarine/submersible movie, the film admirably conveys what for these men is a normal working day; claustrophobia, isolation, an unforgiving environment. Cogently depicting the very strong bonds that form in such circumstances, the film presents a group of very likeable people who have as much respect for one another as they do reverence for the ocean in which they ply their trade. In one respect, it's a story of blue-collar solidarity, in another, it's a slick thriller. Providing plenty of material for the audience with which to empathise, Last Breath is as worth checking out for its quieter human elements as it is for its grandiose struggle against-the-odds storyline.
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10/10
Unmissable
alemrr4 March 2019
An amazing "Docu-drama" proving that real life can be more dramatic than fiction. Great insight into the life and demands of being a modern day "saturation" diver. The story focuses on one individual's fight for survival following catastrophic equipment failure, but manages to produce a roller coaster of emotion, with the audience laughing nervously one minute and deathly silent the next, as the drama unfolds. Not to be missed.
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9/10
Absolutely Amazing!!
sgimera-3491717 May 2019
Footage, narratives, subject, honesty. This hits all emotions and captivates you start to finish.
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10/10
a warning
ops-525357 May 2019
I will be short on this review, just to tell that this is in fact more or less identical to the plot of the norwegian film''dykket''(the dive) , that were produced sometimes in the 80's, with among others Bjørn Floberg in a lead role.

but this is not fiction, its pure raw material of photographic evidence of the situation /incident at the sea bottom of the north sea. its just amazing, and to all of you out there, having any medical issues with or connected to your lung functions, you might choke yourself to death watching this. i myself lying on the sofa breathing at the pace of a bluewhale due to the developing elements of this docu, so my wife had to check what i was watching so heavybreathingly....

this is a must see, if you like the dive in, i , the grumpy old man ,still alive, prefer to be the bell boy at the nekt sat dive....
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10/10
Harrowing and amazing
shamrock07514 April 2019
The other review giving this ten out of ten is spot on. This is an amazing piece of work. Very well filmed and edited. I highly recommend it.
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10/10
Tense and emotional
al1-316 May 2019
I liken this to the other great docu style movie, Touching the Void. Passing back and forth between the people that were there, some reconstruction and real footage, it never lets up from the start. Emotions run up and down as various people recount what happened, it's easy to get swept into it and feel their pain. A simply amazing story and I don't see a better way of telling it.

Human stories such as these help remind you how we take each day for granted, until unforeseen events like this come around and everything and everyone become so much important again. Take care.
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9/10
Worthy
troycamash19 May 2019
Emotional. Worth a watch...........................................................................................................................
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10/10
And here we go to Oscars !
gherota17 May 2019
A former diver myself, i know how it is . Good money , adventure, and then bang ! Trouble... Well done the script, directorship , and all the rest of the crew . This is raw emotions, this is real life folks, not some Rambo , not some Bond... This is every day people with trouble to solve and real stories to tell that will make you cringe , laugh and cry , and all that on the camera. So, of you go to Oscars , lot !
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10/10
Wow
jgedutis17 May 2019
What are you doing? Go watch this movie. Your welcome.
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10/10
Wow
jasonsteph28 May 2019
Firstly how anyone can give this 1-3 stars is beyond me. This is amazing and had me in tears. What a story. A must watch for anyone liking touching the void, free solo etc. Just be prepared
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10/10
Amazing
joeyvanstigt26 May 2019
Love the way this movie makes you feel you know these people. Loved the story and it was very exciting.
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8/10
Fascinating
anamc-893-38907221 May 2019
Dramatic, without cinematic embellishment. Last Breath provides a rare look at a little known profession and an unemotional recounting of heroism after a catastrophic technological failure.
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10/10
Beautiful Documentary
lugosi3319 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Chris Lemons: '...I was completely alone...' No, you were not. You fought and your friends saved your life.
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7/10
Cool story, but it's a drama *not* a documentary...
rwolf-2196710 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I've never done hard hat diving, but I've been to 300' on tri-mix and regularly dive to 200'. There is a *lot* of basic information about what actually happened that they aren't showing us.

They imply that he wasn't breathing for ~25 minutes. Since they said he only had 5 minutes of bailout gas. But technical divers are *very* conservative in their gas planning.

They drill the "only 5 minutes" into them in training because the only legitimate use of the bailout bottle is to return to the bell ASAP. They are not to dawdle or attempt to complete their job.

But I saw their bailout bottles. The look like LP70s or 85s. It's common among tech divers to overfill scuba tanks. So a tank that is 70 cf at 2400 psi will hold ~ 90 cf at 3200 psi. So he had a gas supply of ~180cf.

A calm diver has a surface air consumption rate of about 0.5 cfm. In a crisis that easily doubles to 1 cfm. Then the rate you use it goes up with increasing pressure. So at 300 meters, they would be at 31 ata. (every 10m = 1 ata, and you had 1 to start with) At that depth it really is only good for 180cf/31*1cfm = 5.8 minutes.

But at 100 meters it's good for 16 minutes. Once he got to the top of the structure and stopped exerting himself, maybe longer. Suppose he got 20 minutes out of it. After that he had to hold his breath. 10 minute might seem like a long time, but the record for 'static apnea' with oxygen pre-breathing is 24 minutes.

He ran out of gas and passed out. His buddies got to him with very little time left and had to revive him with mouth to mouth. But it's not like his heart stopped. (If it had, just doing mouth to mouth would not be effective)

A real documentary would have gone into their training more and include a debrief with lessons learned. There are a lot of things they could have done differently. (I had to stop myself from yelling out suggestions) But as a diver I still have a lot of unanswered questions after watching the movie.

So it's a nice drama. If you like sitting on the edge of your seat praying for miracles, you'll love this film. Despite it's flaws I'm glad I watched it and learned a few things. I just wished it stimulated the left 1/2 of my brain as much as the right.

Don't get me wrong. This is no where near as bad as "Open Water".

BTW, Yes he lives. I'm not sure if that's really a spoiler though. If you think about it, they never would have made the movie if it was just about some guy dying in an industrial accident.
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10/10
One word....Amazing
sh-2246112 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This is just an amazing docu-drama of a virtually unbelievable event. A must watch, I can't remember when I last watched something quite this brilliantly amazing and moving movie!
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10/10
Perfect!!
ioannouantreas8 June 2019
If you expect to see a MOVIE dont see that and then come and give it a low rate cuz is not avengers endgame. Is a documentary about diving, a perfect one.! I haven't seen anything better in my life as far as diving goes. If you are a diver is must see.
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8/10
An intimate portrait of life beyond support
paul2001sw-11 June 2019
Warning: Spoilers
On one hand, 'Last Breath' tells an amazing story, but also a hundrum one. Deep sea diving is usually safe, but (not unlike walking on the moon) when things go wrong, there's no way back. But this film tells of an ultimately happy story when a diver, who might have been assumed to be as good as dead, was somehow recovered alive following a disastrous incident. What makes a movie out of these events is the universal truth that so much of our lives are caught on camera these days: there's some reconstruction in this documentary, but mostly original film, which creates a spooky intimacy between the viewer and the protagonists. As a story, it's ulimtately not that remarkable; but as insight into the psychology of diving, and our ultimate powerless in the absence of the technological support we are usually accumstomed to, it's quite compelling.
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10/10
Fantastic real-life drama
almanac-3917828 May 2019
This film is in the same vein as 127 Hours and Touching the Void. It details the kind of incredible drama that only real life can provide, expertly interweaving interviews, real footage of the incident and re-enactments.

It gets off to a slow start, but it wasn't long before I was riveted, praying for the poor diver to live. The music by Paul Leonard-Morgan deserves a special mention, as it's really effective in this film. My only quibble is that perhaps the audience could have used some computer graphics showing the interaction between ship, diving bell, seabed structure, umbilical and diver. This is only a minor thing though, as basically I understood what was going on.

I wish there were more documentaries of this kind of calibre.
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10/10
Amazing!!!
paigelb-7396928 June 2019
I am actually gobsmacked that some people have rated this so low. You inconsiderate, small minded people. This was based on a true story with REAL footage of this near death experience and you have the nerve to say it is boring or the story could have been better. Actually infuriated and heartbroken that there are people out there with such little compassion for others!!!
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10/10
Breathtaking
jimmyburt-6813823 June 2019
Really a must watch, fascinating all the way from the beginning
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10/10
Wow
toxicalien-6979220 June 2019
One of the most incredible stories I've ever heard. Wow
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7/10
Amazing BUT
vincents197326 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Must have been a horrible moment for Chris and his crew and i am happy that he was brought back to life.

I know that this was a matter of like 20 minutes, BUT why on earth did they not reboot the computer right away or at least a few minutes after.. Sorry, but for me that makes no sense ..

I had a strange feeling afterwards, this cant be true? Reboot the damn computer, just like we all do when the PC goes down? ..

7/10
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8/10
Very good
FilmBuff040928 May 2019
This is not a movie. Those of you expecting some kind of thriller or survival story, this isn't for you. On the other hand I quite enjoyed it. It grips you with terror as you're watching the footage. This is not a survival story in my opinion, but more a miracles and mysteries story. I was mislead by the description "he tries to save himself". No he doesn't, not really. Without giving too much away all he does is find his way back to a common ground and then lay there dying, apart from his little walk he did nothing to save himself. And not at any fault of his own, in that scenario there's no possible thing you can do but wait and hope someone comes to your rescue. It really is an alien world down there, you might as well be on the moon because at that depth if even the slightest thing goes wrong you're in a world of trouble.

All in all though I enjoyed this one. A very emotional and personal story with some very disturbing footage.
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10/10
beautiful story and wonderful movie
maxwell_wilians24 May 2019
The film tells the story of overcoming and hope in recovering his friend alive. It's worth it. excellent documentary
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9/10
Just wow!
j_p_bedard18 July 2019
This documentary is just wow! Unbelievable-sad.

A must see. The story of Chris is crazy. Important to take the time to watch and quote. Importance to create more docs like this one
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