Alicia Vikander in a scene from the movie, Submergence. (Ster-Kinekor)
Alicia Vikander in a scene from the movie, Submergence. (Ster-Kinekor)


James is a British agent with the cover of a water engineer, while Danielle is a bio-mathematician working on a deep-sea diving project to explore the origin of life on our planet. On a chance encounter in a remote resort in Normandy where they both prepare for their respective missions, they fall rapidly, and unexpectedly, into each other’s arms and a deliriously wild love affair ensues, even though their jobs are destined to separate them. Danny sets off on a perilous quest to dive to the bottom of the ocean, while James’s assignment takes him to Somalia, where he is sucked into a geopolitical vortex that puts him in grave danger.


James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander are two great actors, and their chemistry on-screen was an electric storm of passion that will make you tingle everywhere. Until they are separated into two completely different movies that have little relation to each other except for their forlorn monologues about how much they miss each other.

Based on a book, Submergence comes with three movies in one, but that does not mean you’re going to want to watch all three of them. It pains me that McAvoy and Vikander’s connection on-screen was wasted on this, and I pray we get to see them act together again with a much more stable and interesting script.

A secret agent Scottsman (McAvoy) and a scientist (Vikander) have a chance meeting while staying in a French hotel together. Their love is ignited and they make a promise to try a long-distance relationship and see each other again after each of their missions – his in Somalia and hers an expedition to the bottom of the sea – is completed. However, disaster on both ends threatens to keep them apart. (This sounds way more exciting than it is.)

The three movies in Submergence is the romance where they meet in the hotel, the suspense thriller where he is captured by jihadists and the drama where she’s falling apart ahead of the biggest scientific expedition of her life. The only one that’s enthralling is the hotel scene, and I could’ve watched so much more of McAvoy and Vikander’s blossoming love.

His capture, torture and general suffering ends up being so boring and goes nowhere, with little fruit for his sacrifice. Her boat voyage is also some self-indulgent pity-party that will make you fall asleep. This would have been a much better story if it just focused on them trying to make a long-distance relationship work, but instead they opted on this schizophrenic mess.

The disjointedness of the film could also be attributed to the director – Wim Wenders. This German director is more known for his Oscar-nominated documentary and art films, and it would seem he was more interested in his filming than weaving a coherent story with his actors’ performances. It’s also possible that the story was just that boring from the book and he did what he could with the material. Whatever the reason, Submergence will still feel like it robbed time from your life with its obnoxious boredom and inconsequential ending.

Submergence was a waste of talent that’s more interested in drowning it audience than providing an enthralling story, and the only thing that kept the rating from 1-star is the intensity of Vikander and McAvoy in the only interesting part of the movie. The biggest sin was separating them for most of the film, robbing us not only of time but a chance to see a great silverscreen romance.