Sunday, 19 April 2015

Black Sea

In a technological evolving society Captain Robinson's (Jude Law) position as a captain of an undersea salvage operation is now redundant, he himself is made redundant and offered £8000 for his services to the company. Angered by this, Robinson decides to get one over his company and find the rumoured Nazi gold at the bottom of the Black Sea. He recruits a team of fellow, disgruntled unemployed workers and some Russians (half and half) and sets out to seek the gold. With the help of the Russians on the quest they hire a sub from Sevastopol which can only be described as a piece of "clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk". They seek out the gold, but it slowly dawns on the captain that the crew would look to increase the size of their share in anyway possible.

There have been many great films set on submarines, two examples that spring to mind are Das Boot and Tony Scott's Crimson Tide. Kevin McDonald's Black Sea is slightly different sub affair to the two films just mentioned but very much like the two previous films it uses its setting to remarkable effect. The small, claustrophobic inducing close quarters adds much to the tension as does the creaking metal of the aging sub that feels like it could start leaking at any moment. Unsurprisingly all these factors add too much pressure for the men aboard the ship with their already strained relationships and volatile tempers.

Black Sea is a film where the execution is considerably better than the source material, McDonald brilliantly directs a number of super set pieces (the walk along the sea bed and the attempts to avoid the Russian navy are good examples of McDonald's prowess as a director). Where the film is let down, however, it the central story and the cardboard characters. The central story is a tad predictable on a plot point to plot point basis and the back story of  Jude Law's Captain Robinson where he can't see his child because he his divorced from his wife (Jodie Whittaker) is dull, clich├ęd and unimaginative (the flashback sequences are cringe worthy). 

Whilst certain plot points stretch one's willing suspension of disbelief and gives the film a rather weak narrative backbone it makes for more interesting reading from a thematic point of view. The themes of unemployment and redundancy, class issues and rich businesses exploiting its working class workers gives the film an element of depth that does just enough to mask the flawed central story.

Jude Law's intense performance is an engaging one even though his Scottish accent (the accent is from Aberdeen if I was to be exact) is unnecessary and could easily have been a needless distraction. Law's intense performance is well supported by a cast of excellent characters actors such as Michael Smiley, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn.

Black Sea is a film that is extremely well executed by director Kevin McDonald, he makes up for the rather lacklustre central story that is lacking in narrative strength. McDonald uses the settings to powerful effect and these conditions and the crew's rising tempers make for a rather tense thriller.


  1. Ah yes, this is a film I know well, sort of. I'm familiar with it because the IMDB trolls gave me an insane amount of hate because I criticized its decision to have an all-male cast when that wasn't completely necessary. That said, seeing as I haven't seen it yet, I can't comment for sure on whether it is otherwise an okay action film.

    Black Sea certainly sounds like it has potential for an interesting story. The claustrophobia sounds like it could be effective and factoring in the danger of the mounting tensions between the characters I could see where there would be some good tension. In that sense it actually sounds a bit like The Abyss, which also had the mounting tension between two rival parties (in that case, the civilian crew and the Navy SEALS).

    1. It's probably best that you watch the film and fully understand the context of the setting (UK) and why it's unlikely to have a woman experienced enough to have recruited for the expedition, before judgement is actually passed on the film itself.

      Having seen the film, I do see your point and could see that perhaps one character could have easily been female (and it would not have affected the story because the character in question was inexperienced in submarine work), but overall I don't feel strongly on the subject (regarding Black Sea, female representation in the cinema overall I do feel needs something to be done) hence why I didn't really mention it in my review.

  2. Jude Law has always had huge acting chops.