A group of friends out for a night on the town has their good times ruined when would-be kidnappers run their limousine off the road and into the depths of a canal. Submerged focuses on the limo driver, Matt, a soldier sworn to protect the daughter of a powerful company man facing scrutiny in the town. With tensions running high and their air supply dwindling, will Matt be able to save the others and himself?
Relatively new director Steven C. Miller has already shown a great talent for filmmaking, both in genre films like the Silent Night remake, and awesome action flicks like The Aggression Scale (seriously, if you haven’t seen The Aggression Scale, you NEED to see The Aggression Scale). He continues this trend in Submerged, which is a very well-blended mix of action, drama, and thriller. The film opens with the limo taking the plunge into the water and then goes right into the “A” storyline of how the characters are going to deal with the situation. The “B” storyline is told through flashbacks, and shows the events in Matt’s, and the other characters’, life leading up to this night.Though Submerged does not entirely take place inside the limo, I have no doubt that Miller could have done this and been successful. One-location films have always been a favorite of mine because I love seeing how different talents can keep a film interesting in this situation. Miller’s visual style here is clear and beautiful to look at, whether the camera is capturing the frenetic energy of the characters in the limo, or composing a serene shot for Matt by himself in the driver’s seat as he tries to figure out what to do. There are plenty of different angles used to change it up in each scene, yet the audience still feels the character’s sense of confinement. Another small detail used to enhance this is when there is water on the camera lens. Considering the location, the lighting comes from believable sources and still doesn’t make scenes too dark or difficult to see.
The scenes inside the limo are juxtaposed visually and tonally with the flashbacks. This is where the editing becomes important. Miller uses several clever transitions to bring the audience into the flashbacks in a way that makes sense and flows easily for the storyline and with the visuals. It’s almost an hour into the movie when you finally see how they got into this situation, but by that time you have already gotten to know the characters, especially Matt, and you want see them get out of this and survive. The action ramps up as the climax approaches, where there is even more great filmmaking to see–including a fight sequence where the camera spins around the two characters the whole time.
The actor playing Matt is Jonathan Bennett, best known as the object of Lindsay Lohan’s affections in Mean Girls, and it is great to see him take on a role like this. He’s completely believable as the character who seems sort of weak in the beginning, but makes a great turn towards the conclusion. I think it was very smart to keep the focus mainly on one character instead of making the film an ensemble piece because there are too many conflicting personalities, and the most important part of the story really is Matt’s arc. Another standout performance is Samuel C. Hunt (credited here as Caleb Hunt) as Brandon, also a character that makes a turn and has this one fantastic and comical scene that really makes you take notice of him.
Submerged is another great output from a director of who I was already a fan. It’s not exactly a genre picture, but it’s a wonderful dramatic thriller that is just as engaging to watch for the story as it is for the action. Catch it in theaters or on VOD November 27th!
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director: Steven C. Miller
Writer: Scott Milam
Stars: Jonathan Bennett, Tim Daly, Mario Van Peebles, Rosa Salazar
Studio/ Production Co: Twisted Pictures, IFC Midnight
Length: 94 minutes