Review by James Lindorf
Submergence is a love story, not just between its two central characters, but between them and the universe at large. The connection between people, between man and nature and man and religion, all combine to tell a moving story of love, duty, and sacrifice. Danielle “Danny” Flinders (Alicia Vikander) and James More (James McAvoy) meet while on vacation at a resort on the French coast as they each prepare for a dangerous mission. Danny will be descending to one of the deepest points in the Atlantic Ocean on a mission to discover how life endures in an area in which we think it should be incapable of existing. James is a spy for the British government which is out to infiltrate an Al-Qaeda regime in Somalia that is responsible for a series of bombings throughout Europe.
After a few brief days together, the two are separated by thousands of miles with only cell phones to keep them connected. Once James is taken prisoner, their only connection is severed. James has his memories of their time together to get him through, while Danny is forced to descend to the bottom of the world, not knowing if James has simply given her the brush off or if he is even alive. Submergence will be available in theaters, on demand and digitally starting on Friday, April 13th.
Wim Wenders latest film, based on the novel of the same name by J.M. Ledgard and adapted by Erin Dignam, is captivating in its duality. The way it embraces the good and bad of love, work and religion, diving into topics as deep as Danny’s submersible. He manages to display the Jihadist fighters in an honest way, even when they are doing terrible things. Their actions are neither vilified nor glorified, instead, we watch as they do what they feel they must, even if they do not enjoy it.
I loved the work done on this film by cinematographer Benoît Debie. He managed to combine a nature documentary and a spy thriller into one beautifully filmed feature. The beauty and serenity of the nature he puts on display is in perfect contrast to the volatility going on inside James and Danny’s world. The look of this movie is probably my favorite thing about it.
McAvoy and Vikander were good in this film, with McAvoy edging her out as the best performance, possibly due to the difference in the characters and what they are asked to do. Vikander is silently suffering as she wonders what happened to the man she loves. James, on the other hand, is visibly suffering, in every way imaginable.
At 112 minutes, the film starts off a little slow, but once it gets going, it keeps building momentum until its conclusion. I found myself struggling to believe in their relationship at first, but both the characters and the actors are likable, so I believe in it in the end. With its themes and an ending that is left open for interpretation, this is a film that will resonate deeply with some, while others will struggle to get through the initial slowness into the true heart of the film.