BLACK SEA
Author: J.A. Hyde
January 29, 2015

SYNOPSIS: A suspenseful adventure thriller directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald, centering on a rogue submarine captain (two-time Academy Award nominee Jude Law) who pulls together a misfit crew to go after a sunken treasure rumored to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea. As greed and desperation take control onboard their claustrophobic vessel, the increasing uncertainty of the mission causes the men to turn on each other to fight for their own survival.

Desperate men in a desperate situation inside a desperately old, decaying submarine Ė sound suspenseful?

It is.

Black Sea, starring the amazing Jude Law, provides some squirm-in-your-seat tension along with skillful acting from a very able ensemble cast. This film is not for claustrophobes!

Jude Law plays a submarine captain, laid off from the salvage firm he works for at the beginning of the film, who undertakes a dangerous, possibly foolhardy, scheme to regain his self-respect and make a ton of money. While commiserating with other laid-off or under-employed men in the local pub, one of them, Kursten (Daniel Ryan), tells Captain Robinson (Law), that the company they formerly worked for discovered a sunken Nazi sub, rumored to contain a fortune in gold, on an undersea ledge in the Black Sea. Problem? Itís in Russian waters and must be salvaged clandestinely. Kursten is willing to introduce Robinson to a middle-man who can hook him up with a wealthy financier. Kursten also reveals he, himself, is being treated for depression and is not really functional.

Robinson meets the middle-man, Daniels (Scoot McNairy), who takes him to the mysterious money-man. They reach an agreement: Robinson and his crew will receive 60% of anything they salvage. Also, Daniels, a shifty sort, must come along to keep an eye on things even though he has no maritime experience whatsoever.

Robinson locates a submarine, Russian in origin, for sale. The catch? Itís in a harbor in Crimea and labelled only in Russian. Robinson amasses a half-UK, half-Russian team, daring Ė and rash Ė enough to man the decaying sub on what could easily become a suicide mission. In need of one last crewman, Robinson impetuously hires a teen-aged boy, Tobin (Bobby Schofield), who raises a fatherly instinct in him. In addition to being fired from the only job he knows how to do, Robinson is divorced and not allowed to see his son. He sneaks a look at him from a distance whenever he can, but the loss has become an obsession. Tobin satisfies Robinsonís need to nurture and guide a youngster.

The crew consists of, naturally, aggressive, alpha-male types who arenít particularly happy to see a novice like Tobin aboard. Trap a dozen men with nothing to lose in a small space in search of a treasure that may or may not exist, and you have a recipe for disaster. The journey that unfolds provides twists and turns Ė some quite shocking Ė that will keep viewers on the edges of their seats. One look at the aging submarine and the sketchy plan to locate the sunken treasure prepares you for the idea that not everyone will make it. But will anyone survive this reckless undertaking? Youíll have to see the film to find out!

Black Sea sounds like the perfect suspense film given its setting and impressive cast, and it could have been. A story like this one inevitably has multiple double-crosses. The problem for me was that I found the central double-cross unbelievable. I blame writer Dennis Kelly for this and director Kevin McDonald for not correcting it. Great cast, great set design and cinematography, flawed story line. Still, itís worth seeing. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: B


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