Volatile men and an enclosed space seldom mix. When that space is 400 meters beneath the ocean and the men are – for the most part – motivated by greed, then that mixture can ignite with lethal consequences. Black Sea, starring Jude Law as an embittered and recently unemployed submarine captain, is a compacted thriller that has steam hissing ominously from betwixt its rusted bolts.
What is Black Sea About?
After 11 years of employment as an underwater salvage retriever, former navy officer Captain Robinson (Law, King Arthur), is made redundant by his firm Agora, who undervalues his input.
Sinking his sorrows in the pub with friends also let go, one lets slip about how their former employer discovered the location of a famed sunken Nazi U-Boat loaded with a fortune in gold.
Agora can’t reach the bounty due to bitter disputes over territorial waters due to the Russian-Georgian war.
With a mysterious wealthy benefactor in place, Robinson and a mixed English / Russian crew pilot an old run submarine under the noses of everyone in search of ‘stick it to the man’ riches.
After some nuts and bolts set up to establish character (pragmatic Blackie (Konstantin Khabensky), Robinson’s Russian friend and intermediary for the Russian crew, and worrisome Daniels (Scoot McNairy) as a representative of their secretive investor), we are quickly sealed inside the submarine along with our cast.
The outside world will remain a distant and longed for memory for the rest of the film.
Black Sea Official Trailer
Is Black Sea Worth Watching?
Director Kevin Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly ensure that each character feels the pressure of the weight surrounding them.
The decision by Robinson to split the bounty evenly causes bubbling resentment from livewire diver Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn turning in a deplorable persona) and that irritation that such riches would also go to dangerously inexperienced 18-year-old newbie Tobin (Bobby Schofield).
The submarine that holds our characters' lives within its rivets is almost a character in of itself: rusty, unreliable, and prone to break under pressure.
Add into the mix the realisation that equal shares for all become bigger if there are less crew. The result is a highly engaging thriller with high stakes for the main cast and background crew alike.
Black Sea is held together by a commanding performance from Law. Driven mostly by anger, his desire for the riches is more for what it represents – getting one over the man – than actual wealth.
A wonderfully framed shot with light dancing over his eyes marks a key turning point in the fortunes of our cast, and the challenges of a sub coming apart at the seams present themselves with ever-increasing urgency.
Broiling resentment can be submerged, but the bubbles of pressure will still stream out. Black Sea takes an interesting mix of people and squeezes them with human nature and a subtext of the cruelty of exploitative capitalism.
“They don’t want us to have this!” shouts Robinson, only for Daniels to retort, exasperated, “Who’s they?”.
Black Sea is a movie that also asks how we would respond. Hold your breath and find out.
Written by Michael Record