RELEASE DATE: 09/04/2015
RUN TIME: 1HR 54MIN
‘Black Sea’ charts the course of submariner Robinson (Jude Law – ‘Sherlock Holmes’, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) as he hunts for sunken treasure. Recently dismissed from his job of 11 years in marine salvage, Robinson is angry at the hand he’s been dealt. When a fellow ex-mariner tells him the story of a sunken Nazi U-Boat filled with Russian gold, Robinson puts together a crew, organises funding, and sails out to the Black Sea looking for it. Predictably, it’s not long before the crew are all at sea (so to speak) and everything starts to go horribly wrong. Not only are there tensions between the English-speaking and Russian crew members, but all that shiny gold starts to cloud men’s judgement.
Acting is decent from all the cast, of which few names are readily recognisable: Law, Tobias Menzies (‘Outlander’, ‘Game of Thrones’) and Ben Mendelsohn (‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’). My one real criticism overall would be Law’s accent – is he Scottish, Irish…. Icelandic? Who knows? It comes and goes, faltering, and distracts rather a lot from an otherwise solid performance of a man desperate to prove that he still has something to offer. Mendelsohn provides a commendable turn as loose cannon Fraser, a catalyst for the inevitable catastrophe befalling the crew. The other appearance worthy of mention is Scoot McNairy as moneyman Daniels, seemingly terrified, but with his own agenda to push. There’s a fair amount of psychology involved; I felt the film would have benefitted from exploring this further, and leaving some of the “prep” scenes on the cutting room floor.
This is a dark, gritty film. With clever camera work and lighting, it never lets us forget that we’re hundreds of metres below the surface in a rusty metal can. The score is simple, effective, and absolutely essential in building tension in some of the underwater scenes. Production value is high, and while I’ve never been in a Soviet WWII era sub, I imagine it looks exactly as it does in real life as it does in this film. The plot isn’t hard to follow, and while the twist is shocking, it’s cleverly played and doesn’t seem at all contrived with the rest of the storyline. In fact, the twist itself goes some way in explaining some of the implausibility in the earlier sections of the story. Keeping the various sailors straight as to who’s who is a little tricky in the beginning, but as personalities assert themselves, we get a real sense of who these men are and why they’re risking their lives at the bottom of the Black Sea.
It never lets us forget that we’re hundreds of metres below the surface in a rusty metal can.
With more than a few elements of classic sub films such as ‘The Hunt for Red October’, this film should appeal - and satisfy - those for whom that subject interests. For the rest of us, it might feel a little pointless. With not enough psychological exploration and a fair amount of wasted time, ‘Black Sea’ seems confused as to its purpose as a film. It’s worth a look, but perhaps not the $20-odd it takes to get to the cinema these days.