Review of BLACK SEA

by Simon on April 7, 2015 · 0 comments

After very cool opening credits, I was ready for a World War II underwater thriller Das Boot style. A plummy Jude Law with his Commander’s cap at a jaunty angle, evading enemy depth charges. Not so: this is gritty contemporary fare, Law playing a rough-round-the-edges Scottish salvage expert named Robinson. When he’s unfairly  “let go” by his employer, he finds himself enticed into a scheme to retrieve a stash of gold that supposedly went down on a Nazi U-boat in the Black Sea in 1941. Financed by a secret backer represented by smooth-talking American Daniels (Scoot McNairy), Robinson gathers a motley crew of experts for the heist – half of them Russian in order to operate the second-hand sub they acquire in Sevastopol, and the other half English speaking, including unhinged deep sea diver Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn). Twelve men in a leaky boat with greed for company and the Russian Navy above them. It’s a great set up.

black sea screenwizeDirector Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) makes the most of Dennis Kelly’s twisty script, cranking up the claustrophobia and suspicion as things slowly and inevitably fail to go according to plan. Law does a great job as the hard man trying to control not just the technical aspects of the job but the brutish all-male personalities that threaten to sink their dreams of getting rich. In particular Mendelsohn’s paranoid character Fraser is a constant destructive nightmare – almost to the point of incomprehension. And it’s the character design that is the film’s biggest flaw. There is not a single particularly likeable person on board, and attempts to soften Robinson’s toughness with sunlit, slo-mo flashbacks of his wife and son are clumsy and out of place. The introduction of an innocent novice named Liam (Karl Davies) doesn’t help either, when he turns out to be an insipid ignoramus. Similar films – like Kelly’s Heroes (Nazi gold behind enemy lines) and the more recent Fury (five men in a tank) work because we follow events through characters who are both gritty and charismatic. Law comes closest with Robinson, but he’s really at the constant mercy of the sometimes unbelievable plot twists. Macdonald’s excellent direction will keep you glued to the screen – there are some excellent suspence sequences – but the film’s ending, signalled well in advance, is a disappointing conclusion to a cleverly conceived and well made adventure story.

Rating: ★★★½☆ SW

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: