A story of monstrous machines, despondent men and sinister plots, Black Sea follows the underwater escapade of former Royal Navy Captain, Robinson (Jude Law) and his group of eccentric nautical experts. The group risks everything to find a multi-million dollar treasure lying in a German U-Boot that had sunk just before World War II and now lies at the bottom of the deadly Black Sea. Will the heist end their lifelong woes or will it prove to be their last underwater jaunt?
Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), Black Sea is based on an original script by television writer Dennis Kelly (Utopia). The film draws heavily from the likes of Das Boot (1981) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948). Shot in a gigantic 1967 vintage Soviet ‘Hunter-Killer’, this is a technical coup of sorts. Cinematographer Christopher Ross certainly deserves some credit for the gripping angles. If this film were to be described in one word, it would be ‘intense’.
Macdonald skilfully infuses explanation in the form of dialogue, so that the audience is not left wondering about mechanisms or technical concepts. Black Sea may not be the best work in the ‘underwater’ genre, but it manages to build tension consistently without being implausible at most places. There isn’t a lot of time spent on character building, yet you begin understanding them fairly soon through the film.
Jude Law portrays a vastly different persona as compared to his unconventional Dom Hemingway. His Aberdeen accent seems almost genuine. Law plays the gruff, dejected sea man with ease and transforms into the rebellious, anti-capitalist skipper with equal finesse. As he starts losing his men to the sea, doubts, greed and envy take over. Peace-making takes a backseat and Law is forced to push everyone to their limits. His struggle to spear-head the journey successfully is apparent in almost every scene.
Black Sea creates a “will they or won’t they” kind of situation, making for some serious nail-biting. When you are almost certain that the crew is going to survive the sea after all, there’s a twist, and then another. Intertwined with these moments of tension is a wonderfully subtle chemistry between Law and Karl Davies (Liam). It’s plausible that a man who longs for his estranged son would feel the need to protect an innocent young boy.
It’s a good thing that the makers refrained from using any background score in most of the places. The sound of gushing waves and creaking engines is enough to give you a feel of the world down under.
Unfortunately, Black Sea has its share of flaws as well. Some characters seem like mere place fillers. You get a feeling that they were put there just to create hurdles somewhere along the story; case in point – sociopath Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn) and Daniels (Scoot McNairy). The revelation at the tail-end of the story is slightly difficult to believe. Some may even feel cheated.
Despite some unfortunate faults, Black Sea makes for an engaging watch. Replete with thrill, aggression and understated emotions, it manages to hold on to its audience while they anticipate what’s to come next.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10