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Black Sea (Jude Law) - DVD Review

Black Sea

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

KEVIN Macdonald made his name directing the tense, real-life mountain survival thriller Touching The Void, which found men pitted against the elements and having to rely on each other. The director may have gone underwater for his latest venture but he proves equally adept at delivering a tense, gritty thriller that grips from start to finish.

Based on a script by Dennis Kelly, Black Sea is a suitably claustrophobic potboiler that also works well as a human story with an unexpectedly touching father-son style under-current running throughout. What’s more, it makes the most of a strong ensemble cast.

The film focuses on a freshly out of work submarine captain (Jude Law) as he is asked to pull together a crew to go after a sunken Russian treasure rumoured to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea since getting lost on its way to Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

However, with the crew divided between Scottish and Russian members and everyone desperate to find some financial relief from their current dire predicament of unemployment and self-loathing, the increasing uncertainty – and inevitable greed – causes the men to turn on each other.

Clearly taking its cues from the likes of Das Boot and other films in the submarine genre, Black Sea both embraces the best elements of the genre while striving to do its own thing within it. Hence, it’s the personal struggles provide the main dramatic thrust rather than any underlying threat from above.

Trapped within the sweaty confines of the rusty sub, these men are their own worst enemy and include a psychologically unhinged deep sea diving expert (Ben Mendelsohn), a jittery businessman out to protect his investment (Scoot McNairy) and a young lad desperate to gain a foot-hold on life’s ladder.

Macdonald allows events to unfold in a stagey fashion but plays to the strengths of his cast, allowing them plenty of room to breathe and create memorable characters who are capable of surprising in lots of different ways.

He also invests Law’s central character with a slow-building father-son dynamic that pays rich rewards come the film’s end. As such, Law excels – convincing as a Scottish grizzled submarine vet who must try to juggle greed, desperation and low self-esteem with a paternal instinct and a desire to do the right thing by his crew. It’s a gritty portrayal that feels credible and real.

There’s strong support, too, from the likes of Mendelsohn, McNairy and the ever-dependable Michael Smiley, all of whom get given the chance to make their characters count.

Admittedly, there are some issues with some of the plotting and the characterisation (Mendelsohn’s psycho is never really given a back story despite screaming out for one) while the lack of any big set piece sequences may disappoint some viewers with a more mainstream appetite.

But Macdonald remains in complete control of his direction, setting a good pace and delivering a few twists and turns along the way that not many will see coming.

Black Sea is therefore a solid underwater thriller that’s marked by some taut direction, some excellent performances and an unexpectedly strong emotional element.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 115mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: April 13, 2015