I’ve been on a submarine before and my father drove Submarine’s in the NAVY, so I am fairly versed with all it takes to make them work and just how quickly things can go wrong underneath the sea. The close quarters are terrifying and imagining spending days, weeks, and months undersea can be frightening. Add in some uncertainty with a large risk, large reward mission and you’re in for a real treat.
After losing his job working on submarines, Captain Robinson (Jude Law) is left with very little money and even less purpose in his life. When a friend proposes a new business venture, Robinson meets with an elusive man and his right-hand man, Daniels (Scoot McNairy), about manning a submarine to find a sunken U-Boat with upwards of 40 Million Euros worth of gold on-board. He has a family, but they’ve left him because of his dedication to his aquatic life.
After assembling a crew, they set sea to find the ship, but not without the threat of the Russian NAVY being right above them the whole time. This means no radio contact and that any wrong move could result in their deaths. As time goes by, tensions grow within the sub as Fraser (Ben Mendhelsohn), the main diver, causes issues with greed. Also aboard is a young man, Tobin (Bobby Schofield) who falls victim to many judgments from the crew, as he’s the “new blood”. All these factors make this expedition one that can turn ugly real quick.
Black Sea takes us leagues below our surface and engages the audience in a heist/thriller of sorts that satisfies in many ways. The lead performances are wonderful and the supporting performances help shapes the leads and the outcome of the film. The claustrophobic setting is enough to get everyone’s blood pumping, but it’s the treacherous and seemingly endless dark abyss outside that’s truly terrifying. With careful direction, high stakes, and emotional investment, Black Sea is more than what you see on the surface and ends up being a rewarding and thrilling time at the movies.
Jude Law, a criminally underrated actor, is pretty great in most every role he plays. Typically, he’s a suave man who’s got the world on his side, or he’s a degenerate. Here, he’s somewhere in-between and he’s sporting a rough accent that makes him completely believable. His motives are strong and justified and the way he handles each scenario underwater is fascinating. A lot can go wrong undersea and he’s responsible for the lives of everyone on his ship, as well as completing the mission at hand. His quick thinking and unflinching ability to make the hard calls help make this one of Law’s best performance’s.
Sort of a dynamic duo in films now, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn play two very different men with some sinister ambitions in their hearts. While McNairy is more of a coward, he still knows how to play with people’s mind and get everyone thinking against a person or an action. Mendelsohn is more reserved, but holds a lot of rage and manipulation within him, which proves very dangerous for being stuck inside a submarine with eleven other men. The two don’t necessarily team up, but when they work together there’s not much these exceptional actors can’t do. Many of the thrills and dangerous situations arise due in part to their delivery and methodical planning.
Having explored a submarine before and having a father who drove submarines for the NAVY, I can attest to how hard it is to run one of them. With a small crew of twelve, it’s possible but extremely difficult. The film highlights the difficulties of running one and explores how the language barrier between the British and the Russians can cause some issues. One of the most intriguing aspects of the film centers around the man in charge of the sonar and how he meticulously plots out where they are and how far away objects are. The film also emphasizes how greed and desperation can create horrific situations in a closed environment and if even one fuse malfunctions, the submarine could plummet into the depths of the crushing sea.
Director Kevin Macdonald certainly understands how to write well-rounded characters and his explorations of their emotional backgrounds bring s the audience closer to understanding them. His actions shots are glorious, as the camera swings around the tight submarine quarters and his wide-angle and closeups of the submarine from out in the water are equally impressive. It’s not often that we get to see the submarine and the course it follows. Not every character is entirely believable and the stakes do escalate in a fairly standard fashion, but Macdonald’s direction and Law’s acting keep you invested.
Black Sea is one of the better submarine films that I have seen and that’s due in-part to the efforts by the entire team. Jude Law is spectacular and this role really displays how great he can be, especially when surrounded by the right people. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn combine their brilliance to create to great performances and newcomer Bobby Schofield really brings in the emotional elements of the film. Kevin Macdonald has created something really great here and you don’t have to know everything about a submarine to enjoy this claustrophobic thriller.
Black Sea Trailer