14th Apr2015

‘Black Sea’ Blu-ray Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jude Law, Michael Smiley, David Threlfall, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Tobias Menzies, Jodie Whittaker | Written by Dennis Kelly | Directed by Kevin Macdonald


Heist movies work best when there is a hint of danger involved, so why not put the characters in a scenario like being trapped in a submarine hunting for gold while trying to hide from the Russian Navy? That is the idea that Black Sea works with as well as adding a few more familiar themes to the mix.

When tipped off about a sunken WW2 U-Boat in the depths of the Black Sea still carrying its gold Robinson (Jude Law) brings together a collection of men both British and Russian to man an old submarine to go down and retrieve the gold. Funded by a shadowy backer the plans seem to be going well until tensions between the men lead to an explosion of violence which may leave them trapped on the seabed with no chance of survival.

Black Sea could have been just about greed and the lust for the gold but thankfully it is more complicated than that.  Director Kevin Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly instead weave a tale of the working class men who have lost their jobs and need some hope, not just the British, but Russian too, who luckily enough add tension by having language barriers added. In a planned heist which will take the gold from the employers who fired them there is a hunger to be a success and to show that the evil money men don’t always win in the end.  Of course there are twists that makes things harder than it may seem.

Jude Law was in need of a good movie at the moment, and Black Sea may be it. Putting on a Scottish accent he doesn’t do that bad a job at his portrayal of a grafter who has seen his best days go past him leaving him with a hunger for a much-needed payday.  The fact that he becomes blinded by the lust for the gold when making life or death situations is no surprise, but what is more surprising is that Black Sea handles the submarine setting in a way that the gold is just in the background as constant temptation, things fall apart even before that.

Through adding layers of aggression within the community trapped in the submarine the tension rises to the point where you feel it could explode, and this is the downfall.  By making it so that half of the crew don’t speak English and the other half don’t speak Russian and both sides don’t want to get on is just another example of how tension is created. Add the “he’s a psychopath but we need him” and stereotypical money man characters and everything is set for failure.

With the set lines for tension and failure for most of the movie Black Sea actually creates a good thrilling story that holds itself together well. Michael Smiley and David Threlfall standout easily as the best actors in the situation, creating likable characters that have their weaknesses but manage to pull focus on the important aspects of the story. The problem for me comes in the form of tension being lost with the dwindling character count with the story starting to feel slightly fragmented as it loses focus. This starts to get annoying as the story get slightly predictable, though as we move closer to the climax of the story and things are wrapped up it ends nicely, which is a nice save.

Black Sea manages to be a good thriller that manages to create a heist set in a believable situation, as long as you don’t think about modern technology and how quickly the submarine would obviously be picked up in the water. Although the film does weaken as the story moves towards its conclusion the ending stays strong making Black Sea an entertaining movie that fans of claustrophobic thrillers should enjoy.

**** 4/5

Black Sea is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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