Black Sea tells the story of the recently retired, or more to the point, the recently laid off Captain Robinson (Jude Law). Finding himself freshly fired, coming off a divorce and estranged from his son because of his long-term dedication, devotion and his strong work ethic to his job, which was evidently not reciprocal. Robinson is bitter, lost, desperate and without options when a friend of his, Kurston (Daniel Ryan) tells Robinson and Blackie (Konstantin Khabenskiy) about a U-boat that was sunk off the coast of Georgia during World War 2 and that it was carrying a cargo full of gold when it went down. The catch is that they're unable to publicly retrieve the gold because of the ongoing Russo-Georgian War, however Kurston's been working on a plan to secretly extricate the gold, but he needs funding and an experienced captain who's got nothing left to lose. Robinson agrees to meet the potential backer, Lewis (Tobias Menzies) and a deal is struck, one which includes that Lewis' jittery associate Daniels (Scoot McNairy) accompany them on their mission to retrieve the coveted gold.
When Robinson arrives home and is eager to get his feet wet and bank account full, he finds the young Tobin (Bobby Schofield) who's desperate for some paid work and considering the circumstances, Robinson agrees. The crew is half Russian and half British. You never would have guessed that this was going to cause some friction on the submersible. Would you? Robinson very much represents the last of a dying breed in his occupation as a veteran deep-sea salvage expert, finding himself replaced by computers and technology and rendered redundant by a money hungry company, but that's a template that could easily be applied to a significant portion of the population. So it was easy to empathize with the men, their position in life, and their decision to risk it all for the big prize.
Black Sea certainly has an interesting premise. Take a freshly fired submarine captain, a hidden cache of gold, throw in an equal mix of British and Russian submariners desperate for the payday of a lifetime, and watch as their greed and paranoia consumes them all. Black Sea was filled with a talented cast of character actors too, and the trailer looked promising as well, so I had some reasonable expectations for it to be decent. Black Sea was an occasionally thrilling and suspenseful submarine movie, but only to a small extent, and any sort of claustrophobia based movies need to be suspenseful and riveting, but Black Sea was lacking in both these departments. Not entirely bereft, but lacking.
There were some pretty nifty "old school" aquatic tricks that are utilized to get them out of some tight situations, so that was interesting for me, but sadly, Black Sea never really felt like it was anything other than an above average (possibly) television movie. Submarine movies like this usually succeed or fail depending on how well they can create a palpable sense of tension and claustrophobia among its crew-mates with the ever present fear of death looming all around them as the deeper waters envelop them, tighter and tighter... This is what separates a movie like Das-Boot from... everything else.
Not to mention the escalating paranoia between the Russians and the British as well. All the ingredients for a thrilling and tense submarine movie was there, but the director (Kevin Macdonald) failed to capture or convey any sort of confining and tightening spatial sense on the submarine, or geographically either. Black Sea felt surprisingly boring and almost perfunctory, as if it were merely going through the motions of the genre that other (better) movies had already established.
The writing was adequate, I suppose. It had its moments, but it was very cliche. There had to be a young rookie on board who's expecting a child, of course, and I'm sure you can guess what happens to him. Most of the characters were thin and barely developed, but admittedly, all the actors did do a good job, especially Jude Law as the salty old sea dog. I don't think anyone "phoned it in". I felt that Fraser was noticeably inconsistent though, only doing things because the writer needed certain things (conflicts) to happen in order to move the plot forward.
I actually noticed a lot of similarities between Black Sea and last years Dom Hemingway when it comes to Jude Law. There were no similarities in the plot of the movies, only in the fairly one-dimensional and predictable character development of the main character who were both played by Jude Law. Both were movies about desperation and redemption for a couple of old timers. Black Sea isn't exactly a bad movie, it just wasn't a particularly powerful, memorable or suspenseful one. It was an "okay" waste of time on a lazy day, but I'm quite sure I'll never watch it again.
Written by - The Sentry - 28/02/2015