Submergence is a delicate, melancholic yet thrilling modern poem about love set in our imperfect and violent world. Despite featuring a male spy (named James !) , a young woman and bad guys ( in this case jihadists) the story takes you to the opposite direction of what a James Bond movie would.
James (played by James McAvoy), the english/ scottish spy, appears as a real modern guy not afraid to show himself both strong and vulnerable who once being held captive by the terrorists will rather try to talk and exchange with those people rather than act like the usual avenging caucasian spy. The two parts experienced by his character are a good way for James McAvoy to display his wide range of emotions alterning between charming, loving and then fighting not only to stay alive but also mentally sane when he’s litterally and physically facing darkness.
In a time period where women are proudly depicted through strong characters in cinema, Danny (played with so much subtility by Alicia Vikander) appears as one of those woman. While you first see her in control and focusing on her job, after falling in love without even being prepared to it, she’ll soon struggle, when James without explanations stops answering, to achieve her job goals yet holding to them and her feelings until the end.
The construction of the movie is interesting as it alternates between now and then, the first part mostly focusing on their incandescent romance encounter in France while the second goes back and forth alternating between James and Danny’s journey as if their minds were connected and kept echoing to each other despite the distance.
Submergence being an adaptation of the book by JM Ledgard it’s great to see how Wim Wenders managed to adapt it into a movie without betraying its essence while adding his personnal touch. The movie feels more human and more tender and because it’s more tender the violence of the world feels even more terrible than in the book. Yet if the terrorism subject frightens and/or repeals you, the way Wim Wenders managed to recenter the story on love and the forth and back structure of the second part should make it easier to watch as it soothes the pain, when we see James being so awfully tortured, to have those moments delivered little by little with more calming and introspective scenes with Danny in between.
Some last words on the beautiful cinematography with stunning landscapes wonderfully completed by a haunting soundtrack that makes this movie worth going to see in cinema even if the theme wouldn’t appeal to you !