Film Review: Black Sea

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Law of the Ocean

Kevin Macdonald’s nautical thriller casts Jude Law as a kind of spit and sawdust Dirk Pitt, replete with Scottish brogue and swearbox filling dialogue, sticks him in an antique Soviet submarine with a half-Brit, half-Russian crew, and has the mutually suspicious grunts go on a hunt for 45 million Reichsmarks worth of Nazi Gold (that’s $182m in today’s stolen money). If that sounds like a waste of your evening I can nothing for you. Everyone else will be pleased to read that the movie’s as streamlined, tense and testosteronic as that premise implies.

Dennis Kelly’s script doesn’t waste precious pages setting up the plot. We’re into the story immediately and from there it’s a metal creaking, airlock slamming, soaking wet sprint to the finish. Even Law, who can kill a part stone dead when he’s minded to “do” a character (see Dom Hemmingway), is great value here as the class conscious skipper determined to get rich and win a moral victory over the unscrupulous, penny pinching salvage company that dismisses him in the opening scene and hands him an insulting £8,000 severance cheque for 30 years of loyal and, we learn, private life ruining service.

Alright, you say, did the movie need an import from the book of received movie wisdom, namely an emotional subplot for Law in which he casts an paternal eye over young working class recruit and father to be, Bobby Schofield, thereby compensating for the loss of his own son to his ex’s rich boyfriend? Probably not, but then a flick that’s powered by paranoia, pressure cooker tension and sub-aquatic intrigue needs something in its pocket if it’s to deliver the kind of emotionally rewarding ending that you, the people imagined to care about such things, demand.

Ultimately though, Black Sea staves off a black out by being a fat free exercise in greed, self-interest and mistrust with plenty of momentum and a surfeit of edgy setpieces. The crew’s composed of distinctive and interesting characters, Michael Smiley’s hard nosed sea dog and Ben Mendelsohn’s combative, unhinged engineer amongst them, and the aforementioned Jude Law convinces as the only man capable of holding this demented crew together while confronting the demons submerged beneath his implacable self-confidence. No serious fan of below the waterline thrills should miss this boat.

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald

Country: UK

Year: 2014

Running Time: 115 mins

Certificate: 15 for a wasted Jodie Whittaker, Nazi cannibalism and conspicuous model photography.


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