'Submerged': Film Review

Submerged still 3 - H 2015
Courtesy of IFC Midnight
A ludicrous thriller.

Underwater, only the audience can hear you whine.

Marketing materials make Submerged look like a pulpy thriller about six Millennials trying to escape from a drowned limo before their oxygen runs out. But like a 20-something who can't tell a story without repeated breaks to check his Twitter feed, Steven Miller's film won't keep its head in the game long enough to engage the audience. Efforts to energize the storytelling with twisty chronology fail, not just because they neutralize whatever urgency is building inside the sunken car, but also because what happens outside is so generically dumb. In theaters, the film will sink more quickly than its characters do, and more permanently.

Jonathan Bennett (who here looks like a sandblasted Karl Urban) plays the vehicle's driver, Matt, a former Army Ranger who works for a much-hated businessman (Tim Daly) and is supposed to be looking out for his daughter Jessie (Talulah Riley). Matt appears not to be doing such a great job: In the opening scene, he awakens after having driven her and four of her friends off a bridge; she's unconscious in the passenger seat while her friends are stuck in the ample area in the back.

Within seconds, Matt has managed to get his leg impaled on something that immobilizes him (the movie doesn't care if we know what, or how), leaving him fairly useless while the kids in the back skip right past the "let's brainstorm ways out of here" stage and settle into bickering about who is sleeping with whom and who has the bigger grudge against Jessie's dad. Wisely, Matt often leaves the intercom off.

Despite his presumably rigorous training, Matt isn't so great in a crisis. His mind keeps drifting to flashbacks that are only sometimes relevant to how he and his passengers got trapped. The less said about the connect-the-dots crime story happening on dry land, the better, as its ridiculous execution supplies some of the only chuckles in this would-be claustro-thriller.

Production company: Thick Water Entertainment

Cast: Jonathan Bennett, Talulah Riley, Rosa Salazar,  Caleb Hunt, Cody Christian, Giles Mathey, Denzel Whitaker, Willa Ford, Tim Daly, Mario Van Peebles

Director: Steven C. Miller

Screenwriter: Scott Milam

Producers: Lanie Guidry, Brad Kaplan, Tiffany Kuzon

Executive producers: Robert Ogden Barnum, Cassian Elwes, Cynthia Guidry, Todd Williams

Director of photography: Joseph White

Production designer: Jeremy Jonathan White

Costume designer: Kris N. Holmes

Editor: Steven C. Miller

Music: Ryan Dodson

Casting directors: John Barba, Lisa Fields

No rating, 98 minutes