A submarine thriller in the midst of Oscar season? All the Academy contenders in the theater and you want me to think about seeing a little movie in the weirdly specific submarine niche? Um, ok. In fact, that’s kind of what drew me to it. It NOT an Oscar movie. And hey, it’s got Jude Law in it. He’s cool. I’ll take this gamble. And I have to say, it paid off.
Black Sea is about a submarine captain that gets fired and needs to find work, bad. He’s pretty pissed off about getting the boot, and when he hears about a verified story of a submarine full of gold at the bottom of the Black Sea, he is determined to go find it and cash in.
Captain Robinson, played by Jude Law, is sick of being a pawn in another man’s game, and after years at sea in submarine’s trying to make a life for his now estranged wife and child, he’s prepared to do whatever he can to make this plan succeed and hopefully get his family back. But, that isn’t going to be easy.
He finds a guy, who knows a guy with money. Ok, the funding is in place, now to find a submarine, and get a crew. Done. The submarine they get is old, and going to need some work. The crew is a mixture of Brits and Russians, and they aren’t all that pally with each other. And one of those Brits is a little, well, crazy. But he’s one Hell of a diver, and they need one of those.
Ok, sure, some of these elements feel like you’ve seen them before. But writer Dennis Kelly doesn’t lay it on too think, and he keeps the tension high in part by making most of the Russian men completely unable to speak English, and the Brits unable to speak Russian. And director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland, The Eagle, State of Play) uses the small quarters to his advantage as well as the limited time frame they have to get the sub to its’ destination, get the gold from one ship to the other, and do so all without any other ship noticing them.
There’s a lot of old school run silent, run deep, type stuff here. You really feel for Robinson’s desire to just not feel like life is screwing him at every turn, and his love of his family. He truly feel his intentions are good, even as the chaos around him builds to high unmanagable levels. But Robinson’s is so determined, he continuously scrambles yet another alternate plan. And as he unveils each Plan B, C, etc., the crew stir uneasily and accept it, knowing how much money they all have coming to them.
Solid performances and an excellent set design focusing on the cramped atmosphere of a submarine, and lots of building tension, Black Sea is a pleasant little surprise of a film. Esecially when you think of January as the dumping ground for movies that won’t succeed any other time of the year. Would Black Sea get swallowed up in the summer blockbuster season? Surely. But here it gets the attention it actually deserves.
Black Sea is a cool little thriller, a solid three and a half kittenhands from me. Want a break from the Oscar season madness? Like submarine movies? This is for you.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, excited to tell you about the next surprise gem I saw!