Alicia Vikander and Jason McAvoy in a film together? Sold. Directed by Wim Wenders? Sold. A romantic thriller? A bit skeptical, but still sold. What could possibly go wrong?
Synopsis: James is a British agent under the cover of a water engineer, while Danny is a bio-mathematician working on a deep-sea diving project to explore the origin of life on our planet. On a chance encounter in a remote resort in Normandy where they both prepare for their respective missions, they fall rapidly, and unexpectedly, into each other’s arms and a deliriously wild love affair develops, even though their jobs are destined to separate them. Danny sets off on a perilous quest to dive to the bottom of the ocean. James’s assignment takes him to Somalia, where he is sucked into a geopolitical vortex that puts him in grave danger. Both characters are subject to different kinds of isolation as they pine for each other; their determination to reconnect becomes as much an existential journey as a love story. (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Starring: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy and Alexander Siddig
Writer: Erin Dignam
Director: Wim Wenders
Rating: 14A (Canada)
Running Time: 112mins
For showtimes and more, check out Submergence on movietimes.com.
Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy have yet to deliver a bad performance. There have been a number of bad films they’ve starred in, but the silver lining was always their performance. Submergence is much of the same as both actors deliver great performances as strong, flawed characters that are as good as they can make them with the limited development of the script. The story follows the intertwining lives of James (McAvoy), a covert British intelligence agent disguised as a water engineer, who meets Danny (Vikander), a bio-mathematician working on a deep-sea diving mission. After a fateful and romantic weekend together, these characters are thrown into situations that cause their feelings of isolation to consume them and make them yearn for that perfect company once again.
In theory this story should work; a chance meeting of two smart, good-looking people who have no time for personal lives share an intimate weekend that makes them yearn for human connection; and at some points it does. When on screen together, Vikander and McAvoy are able to create a real romance between these characters as they slowly get to know each other and grow fond of the other’s company. Unfortunately, this does not last. As the characters go off on their separate adventures and back to their own realities, the film loses traction. McAvoy’s spy thriller feels tonally off when paired with Vikander’s adventure drama and the sharp divide between their situations make the attempted comparison of their feelings of isolation fall short of its mark.
This lack of a cohesive tone and atmosphere goes further beyond the dragging script. The score overpowers many of the scenes with McAvoy’s James even commenting on how loud Danny’s music is. While it isn’t always her songs filling the scene, the score is loud and obnoxious causing focus to shift from what’s on screen to the melody of the music. The other issue is with the choppy editing of the story. The attempt to cut between Danny and James’ individual stories while relating it back to their weekend together causes the film to feel like it’s treading in place, never quite building any tension or going where it hopes to go. The flashbacks that hope to try to create some connection between the tonally different stories end up working more as bothersome breaks that feel like a forceful reminder that these two completely different people somehow know each other.
Overall, Submergence is a messy romantic thriller that fails to stay afloat, despite the big names it has onboard. While their performances together create a romance-filled, intriguing first act, the film is unable to sustain this feeling as the characters follow their own, dull stories to an inevitable sunken grave. It had potential, but just could not deliver on its romantic concept.
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