Film Review: Submergence

While the stars work hard in Submergence, Wim Wenders’s latest film is a strange, disappointing and pretentious drama.

Drawn from J.M. Ledgard’s novel by Erin Dignam, this is a romantic piece where the main characters are mostly apart and where they discuss intellectual topics rather than their real feelings. Wenders stays true to the material by over-intellectualising the whole damn movie, resulting in a cold atmosphere only vaguely warmed by Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy.

James Moore (McAvoy) is being held prisoner on the east coast of Africa by jihadists, while, at the same time, research scientist Danielle Flinders is in the Greenland Sea and preparing to dive into the deep in a submersible. Both are facing their possible doom as James could be shot by these Somali radicals and Danielle could sink to the seabed and slowly suffocate. They keep flashing back to their time together in memories that fragment the plot rather frustratingly, as we’re continually wrenched away from any given situation, spoiling what little suspense there actually is.

It seems that they met by chance at a hotel in Normandy the previous Christmas, and there are long sequences where they have a day-long date and enjoy meals, stroll the beach, observe battlements, endlessly play will-they-or-won’t-they? games and talk about Themes. When they finally get together, each truly falls for the other, and yet James is lying: he’s no water expert working nobly to help underprivileged countries, but an undercover SAS officer, although only we know this and Danielle thinks he’s a hunky do-gooder. Perhaps she’ll change her mind when she discovers he’s been lying — if they both survive?

Vikander and McAvoy are both gorgeous here and there’s a lovely look to the production  too, yet this philosophises itself into a corner, with the brainy Wender making the mistake of having this be a movie about the mind, when it should be more about the heart.

Rated M. Submergence is in cinemas now.

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