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Film Reviews Review: In Submergence, Wim Wenders’s attempt to blend three very different themes falls flat

James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander in Submergence.

Courtesy of Elevation

  • Submergence
  • Written by: Erin Dignam
  • Directed by: Wim Wenders
  • Starring: Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy
  • Classification: 14A; 111 minutes

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German director Wim Wenders’s film Submergence is so many things. A geopolitical thriller and a love story, it is set in Normandy (where romantic sparks fly), Somalia (where jihadis capture and torture the hero), and in the unfathomable darkness of the Atlantic Ocean (where the heroine, in a submersible, studies the origin of life). At the heart of it all is James More (James McAvoy) a British Secret Service agent hoping to discover the lair of fanatical suicide bombers terrorizing Europe, and Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander), a gorgeous biomathematician hoping to unlock the mysteries of the sea. They meet at a hotel in Normandy, fall in love, and then leave to complete their respective missions. It’s when their stories part ways that Wenders’s efforts to seamlessly blend love/science/espionage also splinters. While James is imprisoned and tortured in a Somali jail, Danielle frets about the radio silence from her new love (she’s kept in the dark about his covert activities). The audience is left, then, submerged in two very different movies where the protagonists are going to sink or swim – but unsatisfyingly – not together.

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