Submergence Blu-ray Review

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There's unconventional and then there's just uncompelling

by Casimir Harlow Mar 5, 2019 at 9:49 AM

  • Movies & TV review

    Submergence Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £15.00

    Submergence Film Review

    Paris, Texas director Wim Wenders serves up an atypical romantic thriller with James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander.

    Wenders is acclaimed for his work - everything from his awards for Paris, Texas some 35 years ago, to his three Oscar nominations for Best Documentary, including one for Buena Vista Social Club - but that's not to say that his films are particularly accessible, with The End of Violence using surveillance conspiracy themes to observe human interaction, and The Million Dollar Hotel using a murder at a hotel to shine a light on the curious lives of the individuals that live there.

    Clearly Wenders prefers to observe human behaviour rather than tell conventional 'stories' - which is perhaps why his documentaries are so successful, as it's a much more forgivable trait in that realm - and Submergence does nothing to deviate from this formula, except perhaps to leave the story in the fragile hands of just two characters for the entire duration; a change from the more ensemble works that Wenders has arguably had slightly better success with.

    The intentions behind this production appear far removed from the end result

    The story introduces us to a woman who is about to go exploring on the ocean floor and a man who is being held captive by jihadist fighters, as they remember their time together and feel the pain of being apart.

    Immediately it feels like Wenders missed a beat by reframing the story into a flashback-driven affair, struggling to then go back and fill in the blanks as to why these two people - thousands of miles apart - would even have time to think about one another. Vikander and McAvoy are both capable actors, but there's no substitute for chemistry, and these two simply don't have any, leaving the short and ineffective flashback/montage sequences incapable of convincing us of the foundation for the story. More interesting is the story of McAvoy's time in captivity, but the film takes an hour to get there, with little justification for such an indulgent build-up other than the whims of an auteur whose intentions behind this production appear far removed from the end result.

    Submergence Blu-ray Picture

    Submergence Submergence Blu-ray Picture
    Submergence is brought to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate, and there are few complaints about Wenders' visuals, frequently focussing on Vikander's flawless face and figure and rendering a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation as a result, framed in the movie's original limited theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.

    Largely impressive, at least visually

    Detail is generally excellent, picking up on skin textures and close-ups and oftentimes aiming for picture perfection, framing shots of the lead characters like portraits, and capturing some impressive backdrops. There's little room for complaint, with scant sign of softness, blocking or crush, and a superior rendition of the colour scheme, which handled much green foliage, dusty desert villages and deep blue ocean backdrops with equal aplomb. Black levels are solid, and whilst it's not expected demo material, it frequently delivers - and is largely impressive, at least visually.

    Submergence Blu-ray Sound

    Submergence Submergence Blu-ray Sound
    Technically, it's a solid effort

    The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does a solid job with relatively limited material, rendering the dialogue with reasonable clarity and prioritisation, expectedly across the frontal array, whilst effects pick up the ocean backdrop, the bustle of museums or dusty foreign locales - with very occasional bursts of familiar gunshots. The strongest component - or at least the element most at the forefront of this track - is the score, which is a horribly overwrought piece of pure melodrama arguably unfitting of the comparatively sedentary romance that unfolds on screen. Still, technically, it's a solid effort.

    Submergence Blu-ray Extras

    Submergence Submergence Blu-ray Extras

    Submergence Blu-ray Verdict

    Submergence Submergence Blu-ray Verdict
    A decent enough purchase, but only for true fans

    Wim Wenders fans won't exactly be shocked to find this a rather atypical romantic drama, but they may be a little surprised to find it carried by a mere two characters where Wenders invariably fares better with a broader cast (Submergence improves no end once the 'doctor' arrives). Lionsgate's UK Region B-locked Blu-ray affords largely great video and solid audio, but zero extras - leaving it a decent enough purchase, but only for true fans.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £15.00

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