Thursday, January 29, 2015

Black Sea

Underwater thrills and adventure
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Screenplay: Dennis Kelly
Cast: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Bobby Schoenfeld, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Tobias Menzies, Michael Smiley

Occasionally a submarine thriller comes along and holds our interest with the intensity of the underwater thrills. Black Sea accomplishes that goal, and director Kevin Macdonald keeps the thrills at a heightened frenzy. This reviewer loves everything about the sea having been in the Navy, so any shipboard antics give out blood pressure rushes and thrills. So will the audience experience the same artery tightenings.

International star Jude Law stars as Captain Robinson, an unemployed submarine pilot whose job has been eliminated where he has worked for a good part of his life. Other jobs were also made redundant, and many “old salts’ with 30 years experience now find themselves out of date in today’s technological world. All the men get together and tell sea tales. One legend involves an alleged sunken German U-Boat that was filled with gold ingots from Stalin to Hitler in the 1940s. The gold was supposedly a pay-off to Adolph Hitler in hopes he would not invade Russia. Of course, the Nazis did invade Russia in the winter in one of the most disastrous campaigns of World War II for the Germans.

The submarine filled with the gold never made it to its destination and lay at the bottom of the Black Sea in fairly shallow waters. Robinson proposes to the rag-tag men that they try to rescue the gold on their own and thus eliminate all their financial worries and mortgages. Robinson finds a questionable financier to put up the cash for the expedition. They find and buy an old rusty Russian submarine that is ready for the scrap heap and paste it together so that it actually sails and submerges. The rough and tumble men show their nautical skills and get the boat into ship-shape as much as they can.

The “money men” insist they have a representative on board, so Scoot McNairy as Daniels fills the bill as the non-sailor passenger who has no faith in the venture.  He’s the fifth wheel in the episodes and fills the atmosphere with his negative views on the success of their pursuit. He’s of no help to the crew and is always in the way. But he serves as a spy for the investors and is a necesssary evil.

Robinson makes up his crew with grizzled old-timers who know their stuff and complements them with additional sailors who are Russian and are vitally needed to interpret as well as navigate the Russian-made sub. The British crew and the Russian crew are emotionally divided, but are somewhat united when Robinson offers all of them an equal share of the booty at the bottom of the sea. However, tempers flare when deep sea diver Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn) frequently blows his stack and irritates the other men.

Most sailors love to grouse and complain about everything, and these guys were no different. Soon, somebody realizes that there will be more to share of the gold if there are fewer crewmembers. A nasty thought at best. Some “accidents” occur, some heads are bloodied, and soon the passengers list shrinks.

A little humanity is injected into the tense scenes underwater with the addition of 18 year-old Tobin, played engagingly by Bobby Shoenfeld. He’s certainly wet behind the ears and the men tease him unmercifully because of his inexperience. Robinson takes him under his wing because he, too, has a young son and can relate to what Tobin is experiencing as a sailing novice. We get a sense of knowing Tobin’s character much more than any of the other men. There is little character development of the other men other than individual personalities being exposed through their actions. Law’s character is revealed in quick flashbacks with his wife and son, but Dennis Kelly’s screenplay never develops him fully as a man, husband or father. However, Law’s performance is exemplary and he comes across as a man in charge who knows how to skipper a sub.

Director Macdonald has paced the actions scenes well and has squeezed every ounce of excitement out of it that he can. Explosions on board are certainly terrifying, water gushing through the sides of the sub cause tense gripping of the theatre seats by audiences. The extreme claustrophobia inherent in a small sub is captured in cinematographer Christopher Ross’ lenses and heightens the cramped over-all look.

Overall, it’s a pretty exciting and terrifying look into the underwater world of submarines, grizzled sailors and the lust for riches. Black Sea is one of the better nautical yarns to be filmed in years.

Find ArtsNFashion on FB and Twitter:


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Grants For Single Moms