Jude Law Ben Mendelsohn Scoot McNairy Tobias Menzies Bobby Schofield
Black Sea is a thriller that shows the heights of human heroism and the depths of human greed and evil schemes. There is a plot twist in the middle that will take your breath away. Basically, the film is about a group of men let go from their jobs who get wind of a treasure at sea, so are willing to man a submarine and go in search of it.
Robinson (Law) is named the captain because of his experience and skill on submarines, and he recruits his buddies to join him. When something happens to one before they even set out, Robinson recruits the 18 year-old Tobin (Schofield) who brought him the news. Because the sunken boat is Russian-made, they need a few Russians to go with them. And finally, they have an unwilling participant, Daniels (McNairy), who was sent by the man who is financing the operation to look out for his interests. One hopes for the best with this motley crew, especially since the submarine they’ll be traveling in looks old and decrepit.
They set off, but while they’re at sea a series of tragedies/comedies occur that put them all in danger. First of all, they start arguing about the booty even before they’ve laid eyes on it. Robinson has made it clear that they will all share equally in the spoils—after giving the financier 40%--and one would think that since none of them has much of anything and the treasure is millions of dollars in gold bricks, that they would be satisfied. But no, human nature comes to the fore, and some feel strongly that they deserve more. I anticipated that the class system like the one we saw in Snowpiercer might develop, but Robinson stands his ground on equality. Nevertheless, they continue to argue about it, along with other petty and not so petty issues, and attempt to undermine the captain on the sly. Not only does their contentiousness put the whole mission at risk, but they endanger themselves individually.
Because their conflicts cause real damage to the boat at times, we never know whether they’re going to make it or not, or even whether they will reach the treasure, much less make it home. Dennis Kelly has written a script that keeps you constantly guessing and on edge, and the cinematographer (Christopher Ross) employs the camera as another character slithering up and down through the boat and even bumping into things when there is a disturbance, in following the action and composing artistic shots of the actors and the sea. Kevin Macdonald, the director of Touching the Void, knows how to pace an agonizing thriller as well as show sometimes very touching humanity (e.g., Marley) and complex personalities (The Last King of Scotland), all of which are apparent here.
Jude Law shines as the star—as he usually does—and his character is one we can admire for his leadership, his sense of responsibility, and his shrewd deductions. Law is very talented in many kinds of different roles, and he is entirely convincing in this one. The supporting actors are all very good as well.
There are implausible moments in Black Sea, but they are not serious enough to detract from the excitement and suspense.
They all live in a rusty submarine, but it’s an exciting ride.
By Donna R. Copeland