Submergence takes on multiple meanings in this romantic thriller. Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander) literally dives to the very bottom of the Greenland Sea on an exploratory mission, while her beloved James Moore (James McAvoy) remains immersed in his deep cover as a captured operative. At their lowest points, both cling to memories of their passionate rendezvous in France. This film desperately tries not to be cliché, but it succumbs to the pitfalls of a stereotypical narrative of lovers torn apart by unfortunate circumstances.

James and Danielle are driven by their careers, which save lives in different ways. Her sea-faring mission could help prove if it is possible to have life on Mars, if /when the Earth becomes uninhabitable. Meanwhile, he is secretly working to keep innocent lives safe by targeting and eliminating threatening terrorists. Both careers do not offer them the luxury of love, but they find themselves falling for each other nonetheless.

“…a stereotypical narrative of lovers torn apart by unfortunate circumstances.”

McAvoy is given the meatier role and brilliantly showcases his talents, as always. We feel his torment, heartbreak, and resilience when he’s held captive by jihadists in Africa. With his life on the line, memories of their time together are his only escape. Unfortunately, Vikander’s role is reduced from an intelligent, esteemed and groundbreaking professional to that of a jilted lover. Danielle thinks she’s being ghosted by James and sulks in the days leading up to her mission. The fearless and clever woman we met at the beginning of the film digresses to a wallowing school girl, which makes her narrative particularly underwhelming.

Although suspense and intrigue are sustained by James’ intense storyline, a half interesting film cannot make-up for what is lacking as a whole. Submergence strives to be artistic, thought-provoking, complex and nuanced. Wim Wenders captures stunning scenery, however, his direction feels like he is trying too hard to create something extraordinary.

Despite their strong performances, McAvoy and Vikander are unable to save this sinking ship of a film. Ultimately, we are sadly left with an average movie that leaves viewers feeling disappointed and unsatisfied.

Submergence (2017) Directed by Wim Wenders. Written by Erin Dignam. Starring Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy, and Alexander Siddig.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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