Black Sea (2014)

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When taken with a pinch of (sea) salt this submerging tale of gold, troublesome crew members and a metal coffin isn’t all bad. It has very good moments of thriller tension, the music is all very shadowy and atmospheric building up the suspense of character and of the unknown murky world their sub is entering. Yes, it has flaws of being unbelievable at times and constantly adding threats to cycle drama round and round but the ride is worth the few leaky weaknesses.

After being let go from his job of many years, Robinson (Jude Law) gets the chance to make it big and help fellow people in a similar position when hearing that a sunken submarine in the Black Sea could likely have a heck of a lot of Nazi gold stored aboard. Getting a crew of Brits and Russians to help navigate their rusty vehicle starts trouble in motion as the desire of less men equaling more share of the loot becomes clear. It’s a worrying journey through the deep as personalities clash in the hope of ever reaching the possibility of some gold.

This movie never bursts with vivid life, there’s no ground breaking twist or wow moment concerning the fact it is meant to be a thriller. The reveal that does finally come isn’t spectacular, it serves the story but that’s it really. More of the film’s success comes in the character detail, in the manner of developing the culture clashes that bring about deaths, stand offs and the ever present sense of unease. The ending climax is stuffed with demises, explosions and the like but it never feels like it’s lifting far above 6 or 7 on the sparky scale. (no such scale exists but it should!)

Kevin Macdonald directs with a keen and detailed eye for claustrophobic storytelling. The majority of the film is focused on clanking metal entrapping like the deathly underwater tomb it is. There’s lots of use of close ups on faces or extreme close ups at times to make that small space seem even tinier. A big and effective direction is when Fraser is being coaxed into something and the camera sticks very close to his face racking up that tension in the trapping environment.

Ilan Eshkeri does a fantastic job with the score for this movie. It feels like it’s always there but in a good way. Always brooding as it floats alongside the action on screen. The music is sort of smoky and dark to mirror the creation of dread as reality hits the crew that their lives are getting in worse shape.

There’s a few niggles that I won’t go into because they spoil the plot but one main issue is the constant annoyance and insistent stupidity of Jude Law’s captain, considering how he’s at first built to seem likable, smart and out for the safety of everyone, he goes on to make a series of silly choices endangering everyone, including some 18 year old who he just happens to bring along because the convenience of his presence is there at the right time. It’s a sequence of nautical disasters that makes the film feel like a ‘Gravity’ narrative in there being something terrible following something bad.

Jude Law is a fine choice for the role. He convinces in his every-man persona of down and out hard worker left with no work. The Scottish accent he possesses is one that sounds great to me, at least it doesn’t ever sound like he wavers when speaking. The ferocity in his eyes is a great thing he keeps using as the determined captain he plays starts realising errors but can’t go back. The entire crew, however cliched in places of stereotypical personas to get the dramatic ball of tension rolling are acted really well all doing the job required in the pretty cookie cut script they’ve been handed.

A fine enough film exploring not only the perils of the Black Sea but the consequences of human greed. Perhaps not a movie to overly excite, inspire or go out of your way to see but there’s substantial claustrophobia to swim around in, in this daft but enjoyable thriller.

6/10

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