It’s safe to say that Black Sea‘s premise is interesting at the very least. Jude Law plays Robinson, a marine salvage sub captain who is given das boot in favour of corporate streamlining. Angry and jobless, he hears of a potential haul that could solve his financial problems for good. He captains a half British, half Russian crew to the Black Sea where it’s rumoured there is a U-Boat full of unclaimed gold lying on the ocean floor. As the crew makes their way to the site, it doesn’t take them long to realise that the less people there are alive, the bigger the personal share of the loot gets.
Don’t make the mistake I did upon hearing the synopsis. It’s not a slasher movie set in the cramped confines of submarine. It’s a more of a tense thriller (set in the cramped confines of a submarine) than anything else. That’s not to sell it short, just to maybe adjust expectations slightly. Expectations are a funny thing as what you hope a film could be can cloud your judgement and make you miss what the film actually does bring to the table. Black Sea is a tense ol’ ride. The strain that the various personality clashes creates is palpable. The suspense is kept throughout, sometimes at unbearable levels, sometimes a quiet menace in the background. Any film that can keep that sort of dread going for an extended period of time is worthy of recognition.
I thought Jude Law was great. He speaks in what I believe to be an Aberdeen accent and it can be quite jarring to hear the first few times he opens his mouth. It’s not the best and I imagine actual Scots would have a problem with it, but to my untrained ear it sounded alright. Robinson also has the most compelling motivation of the crew. He’d given up everything for his job, including his family, only to be unceremoniously shitcanned. He’s a believable sub captain too, being able to covey years at sea and dealing with crews with subtle touches to his performance. All the cast are solid. Special mentions must go to Konstantin Khabensky, who seems to be Hollywood’s go-to-guy for likeable Russians, Michael Smiley, who will always be “Tires” from Spaced to me and Bobby Schofield, who plays the young, naive Tobin. Tobin is an interesting character. Most people would disagree with me when talking about motivations. Tobin has a pregnant “not-girlfriend” waiting at home and so obviously has extra drive to make it to the end of the film. I found this to be hackneyed as anything. It’s fine and it serves its story function, but we’ve all seen this before in war films and the like. Points are awarded for having a picture of the scan on his phone instead of a battered, faded photograph as is usually par for the course. No, they give Robinson one of those instead (sigh). The plot also has some contrivances and bendings of reality that irk slightly, but none of them was enough to spoil the rest of it.
I enjoyed Black Sea quite a bit. It’s not perfect, but it delivers enough on its premise to make it a worthwhile experience. Ignoring however crap or not Law’s accent is, it’s a great performance. The story may not have gone the way I initially imagined, but it pulls some decent twists out of the bag and does a brilliant job of creating an atmosphere of claustrophobic tension. Recommended.
Genre: Adventure, Thriller Distributor: Universal Pictures Rating: 15 BD Release Date: 13th April 2015(UK) Director: Kevin Macdonald Cast: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Jodie Whittaker, Tobias Menzies, David Threlfall, Karl Davies, Michael Smiley Buy: Black Sea [Blu-ray]