There’s nothing like a dive deep into dull to get you off your “Why aren’t great directors still getting the chance to direct?” soap box.
Coppola disappears, Scorsese delivers a dog or three, Woody Allen’s last few pictures add embarrassment to his #MeToo shame, and damned if Wim Wenders doesn’t go out and make everybody remember how long ago “Paris, Texas” and “Wings of Desire” were.
“Submergence” is a soapy, melodramatic romance in quiet greys and limp emotions. This adaptation of a connected-by-water romance by novelist J.M. Ledgard has petite Oscar winner Alicia Vikander attempting a coquettish scientist (She wears GLASSES! See? She’s smart!), and her Tom Cruise-sized physical match James McAvoy taking on one more hard-headed Scot, a spy trapped in Somalia remembering how they met and connected by the sea in Dieppe.
Wenders lets composer Fernando Velázquez (“The Impossible,” “The Orphanage”) drown us in strings as a cute courtship plays out between two mismatched but physically attracted strangers in an exclusive French resort. The Eric Dignam (“The Yellow Handkerchief,” “Denial”) script lets the comic banter drift toward oceanography and thoughts of death, and evasion.
“Are you a spy?”
“Oh, I get it. You want to pry.”
What’s her favorite body of water?
“This, the Atlantic.” And his?
“The human body…well, it’s MOSTLY made of water.”
Bet he says that to all the scientists with glasses at whom he makes passes.
Dr. Dani has “waited years” for her shot at dipping down to the sea floor in Europe’s “Nautile” submersible. It’s just adorable and a comic that she feels the need to explain what that is.
“Is it yellow?” he interrupts, because he’s no dummy.
“Of COURSE it is!”
James More (McAvoy) is a water engineer, an expert for non-profits which want to bring water to the Sudan, say. Where, you know, terrorists, pirates and guys hell-bent on bombing the rest of the world back to their level hang out. Coincidence?
They recall their month-ago meeting in their parallel lives. She is readying for the dive, where if things go wrong, “I’d suffocate. I’d have a lot of time to think about things.” He has been taken prisoner by the terror cell he wanted to make contact with (Alexander Siddig is the doctor who forgot his Hippocratic Oath). Beatings and starvation ensue, with More improbably sticking to his cover story and its alleged “mission” past the point of absurdity.
“I realize I’ve never been lonely before,” she blurts out to colleague and confidant “Thumbs” ) Celyn Jones, a whimsical-wise Peter Falk from “Wings of Desire” figure.
He’s just resolving not to die in the desert, with his love at the bottom of the deep blue sea.
It’s all moody and quiet, moments of action or the threat of it interrupting the sheer tedium of a romance that never sparks. The two of them together just seem…logical.
Oh well. At least two heralded under-40 stars get to say, “I made a movie for Wim Wenders” once. Pity it’s a “Don’t Come Knocking/Everything Will Be Fine” Wenders pic, and not of the “Paris, Texas” era.
At least Mr. “Buena Vista Social Club” still makes attention-grabbing documentaries. Wenders’ “Pope Francis” picture is due out soon.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, sexual situations
Cast: Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy, Alexander Siddig, Celyn Jones
Credits:Directed by Wim Wenders, script by Erin Dignam, based on the J.M. Ledgard novel . A Samuel Goldwyn release.
Running time: 1:52