Undertow (2004 film)

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Undertow (film poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Gordon Green
Produced byTerrence Malick
Edward R. Pressman
Lisa Muskat
Written byLingard Jervey
Joe Conway
David Gordon Green
Music byPhilip Glass
CinematographyTim Orr
Edited byZene Baker
Steven Gonzales
Distributed byMGM Distribution Co.
Release date
October 22, 2004 (2004-10-22)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$143,597

Undertow is a 2004 American psychological thriller film directed by David Gordon Green and starring Jamie Bell, Devon Alan, Dermot Mulroney and Josh Lucas. Taking place in Georgia, the film tells the story of two boys pursued by a murderous uncle.

Met with a mixed response from critics,[1][2] the film received special recognition for excellence in filmmaking from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures.[3][4] In addition, Jamie Bell and Devon Alan won Young Artist Awards for their roles in the film.[3][5]


Themes of the story are greed and family hatred.

Following the death of his wife Audrey, John Munn (Dermot Mulroney) moves with his two sons, mid-teen Chris Munn (Jamie Bell) and adolescent Tim Munn (Devon Alan), to a pig farm in rural Drees County, Georgia, where they lead a reclusive life. Chris is a rebellious, troubled teen, resulting in frequent contact with police.

John's brother Deel (Josh Lucas) visits the family. Two boys are surprised; they did not even know of his existence. Deel wants a hoard of gold coins from John. Deel eventually finds them. John refuses to give them to Deel. In the ensuing struggle, Deel murders him, he tries to kill Chris and Tim as well, but they escape and run away from home with the coins.

On the run, the boys meet an assortment of fairytale-like characters. Deel pursues them, eventually succeeding. Wading into a river, Chris throws away the gold coins into the water. Enraged by the loss, Deel struggles with Chris, attempting to drown him. However, Deel is fatally stabbed in the chest.

Chris appears to wake up in hospital. There, he is reunited with Tim and their grandparents.


Critical reception[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from film critics, whose responses ranged from admiration to derision.[1][2] On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds an approval rating of 55% based on 116 reviews.[1] On Metacritic, the film earned a score of 63% based on 30 reviews.[2]

Among the critics who gave the film a positive review were Roger Ebert, who praised the film, giving it a full four stars, he wrote of the director, "Green has a visual style that is beautiful without being pretty. We never catch him photographing anything for its scenic or decorative effect."[6] Ebert would later place the film 10th on his list of the best films of 2004.[7] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a favorable review, calling it an "art film posing as a backwoods gothic thriller."[8] Eric Harrison of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "From its opening lines and first enigmatic image, everything about Undertow is both dreamlike and real, artfully elusive and matter-of-fact."[9] Movie critic James Berardinelli gave it three out of four stars, giving praise to the performances, and writing, "Those going to Undertow expecting a thriller will find the proceedings slow going. However, those who are seduced by the characters and the setting will find that the 105 minutes pass quickly."[10] The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter thought the film conjured up the 1955 thriller The Night of the Hunter, and wrote, "the movie builds slowly to its grinding climax, and the suspense – the standard by which a thriller must primarily be judged – is first-rate."[11]


Event Award Recipient Result
2004 National Board of Review Awards[4] Special Recognition For Excellence In Filmmaking Undertow Won
2004 Deauville American Film Festival[3] Grand Special Prize David Gordon Green Nominated
2005 Young Artist Awards[5] Best Performance in a Feature Film:
Leading Young Actor
Jamie Bell Won
Best Performance in a Feature Film:
Supporting Young Actor
Devon Alan Won
Best Performance in a Feature Film:
Supporting Young Actress
Kristen Stewart Nominated


  1. ^ a b c Undertow at Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. ^ a b c Undertow at Metacritic.
  3. ^ a b c "Awards for Undertow (2004)". IMDB.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "The National Board of Review: Awards for 2004". Archived from the original on 2010-08-13. Retrieved June 9, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ a b "26th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved June 9, 2008.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (22 October 2004). "Movie Reviews: Undertow (R)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 1, 2008.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Best Films of 2004". rogerebert.com. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  8. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 20, 2004). "Undertow (2004)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 20, 2011.
  9. ^ Harrison, Eric. "Undertow". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved April 22, 2011 – via chron.com.
  10. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Undertow". reelviews.net. Retrieved April 22, 2011.
  11. ^ Hunter, Stephen (October 29, 2004). "'Undertow': Oh, Brother, It's Quite a Thriller". Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2011.

External links[edit]