Based on the novel by JM Ledgard, Submergence – directed by Wim Wenders – follows the lives of lovers James (James McAvoy), a water engineer who gets captured by Al-Qaeda in Somalia, and Danielle (Alicia Vikander), an oceanographer set to embark on a research mission to the ocean depths, as memories of their first meeting help them to get through their difficult situations. Submergence is a film that attempts to convey the endurance of love within desperate times, but what we get is something that tries to tell two completely separate stories simultaneously, by gluing them together with empty metaphors about nature and terrorism and founding them on an uninteresting romance.
Both the movie’s stars have already shown themselves to be incredible acting talents (McAvoy in Split and Vikander in Ex Machina, for example), but here they seem totally disinterested in their respective roles, giving nothing short of wooden performances throughout. Whilst Vikander does pour some emotion into her character, her co-star does little else but stare vacantly into the distance and regurgitate his lines, as the film only allows him brief moments to act human. However, the blame cannot be placed on the cast; the dialogue is horrifically weak and shallow, which consequently portrays the leads as simply unlikeable, and it’s hard to get invested in a romance when we can’t stand to be with the couple.
Alongside the dialogue, the screenplay is just as messy. The movie constantly jumps between flashbacks and flash-forwards of both story arcs insofar as any sense of continuity or chronology soon becomes lost in a muddle of unconnected events. Likewise, the picture often tries to create tension by cutting back and forth between the two plots, but not only does it choose to cut at precisely the wrong moments, but it jumps to seemingly unconnected events, thereby dismantling rather than evoking any notion of suspense.
As well as being a poorly written and constructed thriller, Submergence is more than slightly Islamophobic in its portrayal of Islam. At no point is there any distinction made between religion and religious extremism, rather all those associated with the faith are demonised – an issue prevalent in a sequence depicting a woman’s public execution. Top it off with a self-indulgent conclusion and Submergence is a romantic thriller that hits rock bottom.
Submergence is released nationwide on 18th May 2018.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Submergence here: