Since it was released in January, we know it can’t be great. However, it was still playing in February, so you won’t regret the experience.
Director Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea delivers some dark, intriguing themes reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. Haunted by a past that he cannot recover, Jude Law plays Captain Robinson, a man terminated by his employer and seeking a bit of redemption.
Convinced by some untrustworthy characters that a large shipment of gold lies in a sunken Nazi submarine in the Black Sea, he leads a group of questionable characters to try to recover it. Forced to travel under the watchful eyes of the old Soviet Union, Mr. Law and his crew obtain an old sub in Sevastopol, Crimea and set out on their journey.
Most of the film takes place underwater, and the viewer runs the risk of suffering from a bit of claustrophobia. Not only is the sub outdated, but the small crew of 12 are hardly friends. A mixture of English and Russian vagabonds, you know from the beginning that the lure of gold is going to put everyone’s life in danger.
Into the mix comes a disturbed gentleman named Fraser, played by Ben Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn is at his best playing petty villains, and he has proven memorable in that role in films ranging from Animal Kingdom (2010) to last year’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. Learning that the gold is to be split evenly between Laws’ disjointed crew, Mendelsohn quickly calculates that everyone’s portion increases should anyone die.
When the sub starts to quickly malfunction, the boys have to decide whether their sordid prior lives are preferable to continuing their quest and living like Donald Trump. A point is reached where you feel a part of the debate, and Mr. Law demonstrates his skill as a desperate leader hoping to regain a social standing where he can reconnect with his lost wife and small child.
It is Mr. Law’s credibility that holds the film together and makes it a struggle worth watching. While it will quickly disappear from the theater and fade from memory, you are reminded of his significant performances in the heartbreaking A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001); Cold Mountain (2003); playing Errol Flynn in The Aviator (2004); his spot on performance as Dr. Watson in the two Sherlock Holmes films (2009 and 2011) and his contribution to the Oscar nominated The Grand Budapest Hotel.
And since I risk boring you with references to old films, surely you movie fans remember splendid cinematic pleasures involving submarines. For example, identify the following: Operation Petticoat (1959), a film with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis; Voyage To the Bottom Of the Sea (1961) featuring Walter Pidgeon and Joan Fontaine; The Enemy Below (1957), starring Robert Mitchum and Kurd Jurgens; Run Silent Run Deep (1958), where you have a chance to watch Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster perform together; The Abyss (1989); On the Beach (1959), the best of them all starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), a trip down memory lane with Kirk Douglas and James Mason; Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October (1990) and finally Das Boot (1981).
Now go underwater and enjoy yourself.