The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Submerged has a great premise, which it promptly proceeds to screw up in every manner conceivable. Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls) stars as Matt, a former soldier hired to act as the bodyguard for Jessie (Talulah Riley), the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Tim Daly). Someone has a grudge against Jessie's father and exacts a revenge scheme by trying to kidnap her. Matt helps Jessie and her friends escape in a limo, but the mysterious bad guys run them off a bridge and into a canal. With air running out, Matt must find a way to get everyone back to the surface safely. Meanwhile, the bad guys are diving down to finish what they started.

Catchy concept, yes? The problem with Submerged, though, is that instead of focusing on the thing that's really interesting – people trying to escape a perilous underwater situation – the film focuses on the characters arguing about who ran them off the road. In real life, people would yell and freak out during a calamity, but when you do that onscreen, it quickly becomes grating. Submerged has too many scenes of the (bland, generic) characters yelling at each other and not enough scenes of them fighting to survive.

Even worse is that the movie keeps taking us out of the limo for flashbacks that build up to the submersion. There's a lot of dull stuff about Matt's relationship with his brother, his history with Jessie, and the business issues that hatched the kidnapping plot in the first place. None of it is as dramatic as the idea of six young people trapped inside a sinking vehicle. Every time Submerged feels like it might start to generate some momentum in that limo, director Steven C. Miller cuts away to something else, thereby robbing his film of any real suspense.

Submerged itself drowns in the final twenty or so minutes, which are astonishingly misguided. When the main bad guy is finally revealed, it's a complete disaster. The actor starts using a sing-songy voice and delivering lines as though in a comedy. This is a far too common occurrence in low-rent thrillers. It's as though performers think they need to be witty-evil instead of just evil, so they go for this overly broad, borderline campy approach. Providing the name of the actor playing the villain would be a spoiler, but the guilty party gives one of the worst performances of the year. This person is so not-menacing that it sucks the life right out of the big finale.

After the revelation of the bad guy, Submerged caps off with a “surprise” twist that will be apparent in the first ten minutes to any viewer who has their eyes open, or is familiar with Roger Ebert's Law of Economy of Characters. (Google it.) Scott Milam's screenplay is at its laziest here, going for the obvious and predictable rather than for anything that might legitimately earn the audience's engagement.

Then again, the whole film is pretty lazy. The techniques used to make it seem as though the car is underwater are effective, but that's about the only thing that works. There's a very cool little B-movie to be made from this premise. Submerged isn't it.

( 1/2 out of four)

Submerged is unrated, but contains language and some bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.

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