A stunning first half submerged by a soggy second

A stunning first half submerged by a soggy second

Here is a movie that we must call two movies in an attempt to salvage its better half from its decidedly terrible counterpart.

The first movie is supremely beautiful. Danielle Flinders (Alicia Vikander), a bio-mathematician, and James More (James McAvoy), a secret agent with the British government posing as a water expert, meet at an old, lavish hotel on a French coast and quickly fall in love.

Danny tells James about the five layers of the ocean as though she were reciting poetry, James carries a protesting Danny into the Atlantic ocean when she asks whether he has ever been in love, the two take long walks in forests that look like they were borrowed from fairy tales.

All the scenes in which Danny and James are alone might so easily have collapsed into a romantic toothache, but they never do. One is instead left with a feeling of simultaneously overwhelming and calming intensity that only a Chopin nocturne is otherwise capable of producing.

Then there is the second half of the movie, which I will take the liberty of calling The Soggy Vegetables after The Steak''. Danny and James each embark on their own adventure, promising to somehow make whatever it is that has transpired between them, work.

Danny goes to the bottom of the ocean, James is kidnapped by Somalian jihadists, and Danny — the very cool bio-mathematician-professor who is pioneering the most exciting research of her field — spends her days moping on a ship, checking her phone for messages from her secret agent love whom she believes is busy creating clean water resources in Nairobi.

Meanwhile, James watches as the Somalian radicals offer their children to the jihadist cause, stone a woman, and blow up a family watching an old Bollywood film featuring bikini-clad dancers.

The narrative oscillates between the stunning world of never-ending blue water that Danny inhabits, and the dusty Somalian seaside town in which a couple of random camels awkwardly eat garbage while women in burqas walk along deserted streets.

Just in case you didn’t think the Somalians were evil for stoning a woman, a young boy is shot for trying to defend her while a helpless doctor proclaims that, “medicine is mercy, jihad is duty.”

It is all too simple. What begins as a stunning tribute to beauty and intimacy quickly turns into a failure of the imagination. One wishes that less had been packed into the film, so more might have been carefully unravelled.

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