Life + Arts Movies

Take a swim in the ‘Black Sea’ of human nature


After losing his job working on submarines, Captain Robinson (Jude Law) is left with very little money or purpose in 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 that contains gold worth more than 40 million euros. After assembling a crew, they set sail to find the ship, but tensions flare within the sub as the main diver Fraser (Ben Mendhelsohn) grows.

‘Black Sea’ takes us leagues below the surface and engages the audience in a heist thriller that satisfies in many ways. The lead performances are wonderful, and the supporting performances help shape the leads and the outcome of the film. The claustrophobic setting is enough to get everyone’s blood pumping, but the inky-dark abyss is the most terrifying element. With careful direction, high stakes and emotional investment, ‘Black Sea’ is more than what you see on the surface, and makes for a rewarding time at the movies.

Jude Law, a criminally underrated actor, can play anything from a suave man who’s got the world on his side to a degenerate. In ‘Black Sea’ he’s somewhere between the two, and he sports a rough accent that makes his character 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. His quick thinking and unflinching ability to make hard calls help make this performance of Law’s best.

A recent dynamic duo in film, Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn play two very different men, each with his own sinister ambition. Though more of a coward, Daniels still knows how to play with people’s minds and get everyone thinking against a person or an action. Fraser is more reserved, but possesses rage and manipulation, which proves very dangerous for being stuck in a submarine with eleven other men. The two don’t necessarily team up, but when they work together there’s not much the exceptional pair can’t do. They are at least partly at fault for many of the dangerous situations in ‘Black Sea.’

Having explored a submarine before and a father who drove submarines for the Navy, I know how difficult it is to run one. With a small crew of 12, it’s possible but extremely difficult — if just one fuse malfunctions, the submarine could sink into highly pressurized water. The film highlights the difficulties of running a submarine and explores the issues caused by adding language barrier between the British and the Russians.

The film also emphasizes how greed and desperation can create horrific situations in a closed environment.

Director Kevin Macdonald certainly understands how to write well-rounded characters and his explorations of their emotional backgrounds brings 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. 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.

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