Efficient Submarine Adventure ‘Black Sea’ Offers Classic Thrills

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Having explored the farthest fields of space in films like “Gravity” and “Interstellar,” we may have forgotten the danger that awaits down below. “Black Sea” is a lean, often thrilling submarine tale that takes viewers on a journey of timeless terror and sacrificial pursuits.

“Black Sea” is a working class treasure hunt, set in the world of blue collar men who have devoted their lives to working in submarines, but aren’t appreciated by their fat cat employees. A recently fired sub captain named Robinson (Jude Law) makes a deal with his former employer to help the company retrieve a sub with Nazi gold inside of it. On board are men like Ben Mendelsohn’s out-of-control Fraser, corporate stooge Daniels (Scoot McNairy), and young first-timer Tobin (Bobby Schofield).

The cause for Jude Law to earn some respect continues, as he works with diverse characters without a golden showboating, proving his chops. In “Black Sea” he inhabits a hulking, Tom Hardy posture as this movie’s Captain Ahab, a person living with their regrets and expressing such through the physicality of being a leader. He remains a stern presence, and a key part to the script’s overall effect. In a movie that features men who risk their lives to make it rich, not exactly a noble cause, Law is a key part in making their cause charismatic, expressing the tragedy burrowed under a serious face and muscular presence.

‘Black Sea
‘Black Sea’
Photo credit: Focus Features

“Black Sea” is cast with two men who can be exceptional with whatever size role they’re given, Mendelsohn and McNairy. This film shows its true colors in its handling of their type, in which they are more blunt forces under the sea. Mendelsohn can be a delicious villain, with different levels of griminess, but this movie abuses his dark presence and reduces him to shifty eye glances, making the motives all a bit obvious. McNairy has the same simplification, his character brought into this mission as part of his job, but without that interesting humanity. He is best as the surrogate for the audience. He asks our questions out loud, which isn’t so helpful when he slows down the rest of the story.

With many elements at play, such as its pot-boiling of masculinity, experience, and age, it’s surprising that “Black Sea” doesn’t fully dig into its human dynamics. The film is bolstered, however, by its treatment of these characters on this blue collar treasure hunt with an interest in the human conflict, as playwright Dennis Kelly creates a palpable human tension where greed proves to be the most destructive.

‘Black Sea
‘Black Sea’
Photo credit: Focus Features

It’s the thrills of “Black Sea” that have the most muscle and purity. The centerpiece tension of this swift submarine trip can be downright ruthless in some passages, elucidated with claustrophobic handheld cinematography. Macdonald’s film is properly immersed in the high stakes of being deep in the sea, nonetheless in an rusting vessel with crew members who dwindle at the notion of greed. “Black Sea” really ratchets up its goodness when its treasure hunt becomes a pioneer journey into the unknown, in which the darkness of sea level is married to the same emptiness in space experienced in “Gravity” and “Interstellar.”

However imperfect, “Black Sea” provides some pure thrills within a relic action movie form. However heavy-handed and broad it may be, the film is a strong relic, and an efficient one too.

StarRead Patrick McDonald’s interview with ‘Black Sea’ director Kevin Macdonald

“Black Sea” continues its release in Chicago on January 30th. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Tobias Menzies and Grigorly Dobrygin. Written by Dennis Kelly. Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com editor and staff writer Nick Allen

Editor & Staff Writer

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