Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander) is a scientist specialising in applying mathematics to ocean-based research, and has joined an expedition to the coast of Greenland to carry out more investigations on the state of the planet's seas. However, before she embarked she had a brief dalliance for a few days with a terrorist expert, James More (James McAvoy), who she really thought she got along well with at the hotel they were staying by the beach. She longs to hear from him again, but he has not contacted her since they parted; there's a good reason for that, he has been kidnapped on a mission and has no access to any form of communication. But he thinks of her too...
The decline of Wim Wenders is not something that many film buffs like to mull over, sure, some will tell you he never lost his ability, but many more will say, what went wrong? It seemed like everything after Wings of Desire indicated he had nothing more to say, but was going to say it anyway, and so it was some three decades after that classic tale of angels, we were served up the limp Submergence. Not that it was coming across as a completely different director had taken his place in some sinister cinematic coup, as there remained elements that were recognisably Wenders, it was more that they were in the service of middling at best plot and themes.
Certainly his eye for a lovely image was retained, as this was shot all over the world and the director captured some arresting images, but then again, plonk most directors, heck, most holidaymakers down in front of those land and seascapes and you would be hard pressed not to gather plenty of naturally beautiful visuals. The question was, what do you do with the pretty pictures, and the answer here was, have the two leads chunter on about vaguely grasped scientific and philosophical issues to very little effect. Wenders was evidently highly concerned about the way the world was going, and that was entirely fair, so were billions of us, but he was not articulating that well.
We already know the two lovers will be separated because the film begins with that parting already having happened, yet what we cannot see is what the big deal about these two was. They met for, what, three days and they're the love of each other's lives? It was difficult to believe, but you could just about swallow it had there been any spark of attraction evident between McAvoy and Vikander, yet since she was the wife of one of his best friends, you got nothing but the amiability of a platonic relationship, and Wenders was not about to film passionate love scenes which might have indicated some kind of ardent connection. Fair enough, Romeo and Juliet were not exactly old pals from way back either, but Danielle and James were no Romeo and Juliet.
Therefore you were guided to concentrate on the political and environmental aspects of the story, an adaptation of a book by Scottish author J.M. Ledgard, and that did not stand up to close scrutiny either as from what you could discern Wenders wasn't saying anything particularly radical or provocative. This may be surprising when James spent most of the story being abused and debated with by his jihadist captors, but as neither can see eye to eye their chats were unilluminating, to put it mildly. We were given no insight into the Islamists other than they did what they did because they blindly followed their interpretation of their religion, something you could take away from your average news report, as meanwhile Danielle's excursions beneath the waves failed to explain even what we should do to preserve the oceans, which appeared to be the point of the character. While it was no chore to watch, attractively photographed at least, its watery (in more ways than one) stylings were very difficult to engage with. Music by Fernando Velázquez.
German director and writer and one of modern cinema's most important European filmmakers. Wenders films tend to blend social commentary with genre material - thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy. It was his acclaimed "road movies" of the mid-seventies - Alice in the Cities, Wrong Move and the epic Kings of the Road that first brought him international attention. 1977's The American Friend was a post-modern thriller starring Bruno Ganz, and although the making of Hammett was a difficult experience, he won his greatest acclaim for the moving drama Paris, Texas, written by Sam Shepherd.
1987's Wings of Desire was another triumph, and if he's yet to equal those classics, subsequent work has at least been a series of fascinating failures. Until the End of the World was an ambitious sci-fi piece, Faraway, So Close sequalised Wings of Desire, while The End of Violence, Million Dollar Hotel and Land of Plenty were dark, offbeat dramas. Wenders' film Don't Come Knocking was written by and starring Sam Shepherd, while Submergence was a globetrotting romance based on a bestselling novel. His best recent work have in fact been documentaries, including the The Soul of a Man for Martin Scorsese's Blues series and the Oscar-nominated Buena Vista Social Club.