2018 won’t go down as a banner year for Wim Wenders. First, there was his documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word, a clumsily evangelistic travelogue inside the popemobile that had its heart in the right place but ultimately ended up as nothing more than a glossy PR stunt. This week sees the release of the legendary auteur’s fiction offering Submergence, an overwrought and overlong adaptation of J.M. Ledgard’s novel of the same name. It features Danielle (Alicia Vikander) and James (James McAvoy) as a marine biologist and a spy respectively. She’s about to dive into the depths of the Greenland Sea, hoping to uncover secrets to the origins of life on the planet; he is preparing to head to Somalia on a covert mission. They meet. They quickly fall in love despite a suspicious lack of on-screen chemistry. They get torn apart by their chosen professions. Pining and pretentious existential musings await.
In the absence of an engaging love story, the film addresses topical themes including jihadists and climate change but doesn’t at any point subvert or riff on… well, anything really. You’re left with a splintered narrative, both strands of which are too ponderous for their own good. In the end, there’s simply no escaping the fact that considering the talent involved, Submergence should have been better and is a depressing low point in Wenders’ oeuvre, one that joins 2000’s The Million Dollar Hotel, 2015’s mercifully underseen Every Thing Will Be Fine and the aforementioned papal doc as noticeable blemishes on what was once an enviable filmography.
Submergence | Directed by Wim Wenders (Germany, US, France, 2018), with Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy. Starts August 2.
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