Film Review: ‘Submerged’

submerged
Courtesy of IFC Films

Six people are 'Submerged' in a high-tech limo that's run off a bridge in this indie thriller.

A “high-tech limo” forced off a bridge traps six people at the bottom of a river in “Submerged.” Though one might anticipate slow-burning claustrophobia and dread from that concept, director Steven C. Miller and scenarist Scott Milam’s thriller is actually a bit frenetic with intrigue, flashbacks, shrill behavior and a dry-land action climax. The IFC Midnight release, which gets a limited theatrical launch Nov. 27 in New York and Los Angeles, will serve primarily as passable small-screen rental and cable fare.

Matt (Jonathan Bennett) is the first to regain consciousness after his vehicle has been forced into the drink by armed pursuers. Still conked out next to him is Jessie (Talulah Riley), daughter of local corporate tycoon Hank Searles (Tim Daly), for whom he works as driver and bodyguard. Presumably Jessie’s rich-girl status and Daddy’s unpopularity in levying widespread local layoffs led to the armed kidnapping attempt they were fleeing when the limo’s tires were shot out.

Now a leg wound has Matt pinned in place; the luxury auto’s batteries supply lights, but no power to open windows or doors; and the passengers in the back, all Jessie’s friends, prove no help once roused. Her b.f., Brandon (Caleb Hunt), is soon at the throat of antagonistic Todd (Giles Mathey), a suspicious character who might have abetted the thwarted kidnapping, while couple Amanda (Rosa Salazar) and Eddie (Denzel Whitaker) just add to the general panic.

Meanwhile, cooler-headed Matt (who’s separated from them by a glass barrier) reflects on events leading up to this point, including the apparent suicide of his little brother, Dylan (Cody Christian). If he doesn’t figure out some solution to their present-tense problem — there’s no assurance that help is on the way — the car will be swept out to sea, where they might never be found, and in any case the fairly airtight vehicle’s oxygen supply won’t last much longer.

All this is a bit overstuffed, and overblown in a somewhat heavy-handed finale that brings back the previously glimpsed Mario Van Peebles as another Searles Corp. employee. If the suspense never quite grips as one might hope given the urgency of the central situation, Miller nonetheless maintains a briskly watchable pace. Bennett (also an executive producer here) provides a focused and resourceful protagonist whose military-trained emotional control is particularly welcome given the frequently grating effect of hysteria-prone younger characters around him.

Tech and design contributions are solid.

Film Review: 'Submerged'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Nov. 21, 2015. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production

An IFC Midnight release of a Thick Water Entertainment, Elevated Films and Evolution Independent presentation. Produced by Tiffany Kuzon, Brad Kaplan. Executive producers, Jonathan Bennett, Cissy Guidry, Lainie Guidry, Cassian Elwes, Robert Ogden Barnum, Scott Milam, Todd Williams. Co-producers, William Clevinger, R. Andru Davies.

Crew

Directed by Steven C. Miller. Screenplay, Scott Milam. Camera (color, HD), Joseph White; editor, Miller; music, Ryan Dodson; music supervisor, Koo Abuali; production designers, Jeremy White, Derrick Hinman; costume designer, Kris N. Holmes; sound, Brandon Pert, Phillip Bladh; supervising sound editor, James Miller; re-recording mixers, Jason Jaya, Jeffrey Roy; stunt coordinator, Matt Anderson; assistant director, DJ Pomroy; casting, Lisa Fields.

With

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

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