By Jim Muntisov
Kevin McDonald’s “Black Sea” follows a group of mercenaries, led by Jude Law’s Robinson, as they venture to the depths of the ocean to uncover a Nazi submarine that’s suspected to be loaded with gold. McDonald has made a name for himself by making watchable adventure thrillers (“Touching the Void,” “The Last King of Scotland”) and “Black Sea” is another one to add to the list, but it doesn’t take any risks to make it an outstanding or truly memorable piece of cinema. It will, however, take you on an enjoyable ride on a rainy day.
The film opens with Robinson being let go from his job as a submarine operator, joining his friends at the pub in the world of unemployment. One of these friends gets wind of a job to pilot a submarine searching for Nazi treasure. So of course, all out of jobs, they accept and wrangle together a crew of other equally depressed characters who are all looking for their pay day. With Robinson intent on sharing their winnings, an even split to each crew member, you already know the gist of what will happen.
That was “Black Sea’s” biggest pitfall, it’s characters’ predictability. There were players you knew were going to potentially want bigger paychecks and it was clear some of them were going to start biting the dust. It was disappointing that a script by Dennis Kelly (whose British series “Utopia” is absolutely magnificent) couldn’t escape trappings of other genre films.
Law plays around with a gritty and believable Scottish accent, removing some of the British charm we’ve grown accustomed to. He held together a great supporting cast, including Scoot McNairy as a whiny American businessman, Ben Mendelsohn as a psychotic ex-convict, and newcomer Bobby Schofield, who impressed as an inexperienced kid who Robinson takes on board.
An enjoyable aspect to the film was half of the sub crew being Russian. It was a good tension initiator due to the language barrier and the preset alliances from both sides. A bonus was all the Russian characters being played by Russians, which is a refreshing change from typical Hollywood productions.
McDonald excelled at bringing out the tension and claustrophobia of the isolated setting. Having multiple characters on screen at once, having to squeeze around other people, really brought the confinements of the submarine to life. McDonald managed to balance the internal conflicts of the crewmates and the dangers of piloting the submarine. The characters can be yelling and threatening each other, and within a second, everybody mans their stations and works together.
“Black Sea” is a decent popcorn movie. Some of the character motivations are unbelievable and the story is predictable, but it’s overall an enjoyable two hours. In the cinema deadzone that is January, you could do worse than seeing “Black Sea,” but don’t expect anything genre defying out of it.
Jim Muntisov is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.