Many things become obsolete all the time. Our technological advances are so insidious that we sometimes forget the predecessors that came before them. I’m talking things like the telegraph, steam powered engines, pagers, Myspace, and the Zune. Black Sea brings back a premise we thought was lost to time (and the sea), but with enough gusto to make us remember why we cared about it to begin with.
Jude Law plays a working class hero, Captain Robinson, who recently lost his decades long job and is forced into a world he doesn’t quite feel he can be a part of. Having put his entire being into his work, and at the expense of his family, he can’t find a reason to validate his sacrifice. Then, an old coworker and buddy tells him about sunken Nazi-era treasure that was never discovered, partly because it was thought to be a myth. In an Ocean’s Eleven-type planning phase, they assemble a team together, with the financial help of an elusive benefactor. They must go in before the company Robinson was fired from gets to the underwater gold, and they must also do it without being detected by the government in whose waters this submarine is sunken. It is impossible to tell what is waiting for you deep inside the waters, but maybe you should fear what is waiting for you inside your own vessel instead.
With director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, How I Live Now) at the ship’s helm, there is no way it can sink. There is enough tension created by the confined atmosphere to keep this buoyant and afloat. The pacing may be slower in the first half before they reach the sub, but it quickly makes up for it as soon as they step into this ship you know is destined to sink. Just because the ship goes down, that doesn’t mean the film quality sinks with it. Quite the opposite, actually, since there are some great, realistic underwater shots of the ocean floor, not to mention the inside of the submarines. The vastness of the oceanic shots in contrast with the claustrophobic inner submarine scenes help create a daunting feeling of imprisonment and seclusion that creates tension even before anything even begins to go wrong.
The ship is only as good as its crew, and Jude Law plays a huge part as the driving/steering force in this film. Like the submarine, Black Sea basically floats or sinks at his command, but his controlled and skilled performance are anchors to help him with either decision. The film does come off as a little old school, but Law’s contemporary portrayal of this disenfranchised working man is what holds this little submarine thriller together, even when the nostalgia threatens to take it over. It almost makes up for the predictability of it all, with shallow characters and an overused Moby Dick-ian twist.
Black Sea is proof positive that Macdonald can direct a film whose premise may seem outdated and lacking depth, with enough gripping suspense thanks to a great casting choice for his second in command: Jude Law. With stunning underwater visuals, and a story that is engaging enough despite its obvious turns, there may be gold here yet.
RATING: ★★★★★★★(7/10 stars)