Review by Zachary March
When I saw the trailer for Jude Law’s newest film “Black Sea,” I wasn’t particularly impressed, though I wasn’t against seeing it overall. The movie itself is about a group of sailors, led by Jude Law’s Captain Robinson, traveling to the depths of the black sea to uncover gold that is potentially hidden within a sunken U-Boat in order to make good with some former employees. The trailer makes the film out to be a standard thriller when it actually has a lot more depth and intelligence than one would expect. The whole story of retrieving gold from the bottom of the ocean is merely the shell of the film. What lies beneath, being the real meat that drove this film home for me, is a rag-tag group of characters who are being consumed by their own fantasies of becoming rich. Not the film I expected, but definitely the film I’m glad I got in the end.
Jude Law does some remarkably great work here as the Captain. Donning a Scottish accent and a thinning hair line, Law loses himself in this role and becomes a complex and fascinating individual who is trying to keep his crew stable while controlling his desires for gold and money. It might not be as mad and crazy of a performance as that in “Dom Hemingway,” but Law definitely puts his all into his role, which alone made me appreciate the character as a whole. Scoot McNairy, who recently was in the overlooked indie “Frank” as well as Best Picture Winners “Argo” and “12 Years A Slave,” also does some strong work as an American who convinces Law’s character to go forth with the expedition. His selfishness in the story is kind of the epicenter of why the film really grabbed me and kept me invested with what’s going on. The rest of the cast is also quite good, but in the end, I would guess that it’s Law and McNairy who will have had a lasting impact on you once the film comes to a close.
Kevin Macdonald has made his mark in the film industry, from documentaries like “Life in a Day” and “Marley” to Oscar winning movies like “The Last King of Scotland.” He directs this film with intense precision, and considering that the majority of the movie takes place within the confines of a submarine, I will say that he manages to keep the illusion of being trapped within a small space well without giving off a claustrophobic feeling whatsoever. When an intense moment hits, we as an audience really feel the heat that’s brewing within the bodies of the crew members, which adds to the constant tension present. Having not seen any of his other films unfortunately, I will happily say that Macdonald shows a lot of promise in his ever-growing career, and this film is a great place for regular audience members to introduce themselves to his work.
The problems in the film mostly lie in Dennis Kelly’s screenplay. Don’t get me wrong, the majority of the writing is well done, and the story itself never lost my attention. What I found to be problematic was the fact that it never seemed like the film wanted to end. Personally speaking, I believe there could have been a good 10 minutes trimmed off the film that would have made the writing tighter and the pace quicker. Unfortunately, the movie feels like it just goes on and on and drags scenes out that could have been minutes shorter. In all honesty, I believe that there could have been a good 10 minutes cut from the final cut that would have made the story tighter and the pace faster. Other than that, I really don’t have anything else negative to say.
Thanks to Jude Law’s stand-out performance, a solid supporting cast, a clever yet somewhat predictable script, and Kevin Macdonald’s calculated direction, “Black Sea” at the end of the day is an intense and engaging submarine thriller that, while dragging a bit towards the end, has a solid payoff in the end. What I believe a thriller should be at the end of the day is a story that gets you invested with its characters, tells an intriguing tale, and gives thrills and unexpected turns as the ride goes along. This film highly succeeds at doing just that, and for that alone I have to give it credit. I’m not sure if it’s going to be something I really remember by the time the year ends, but for the time being, I’m glad I have seen this film, especially in a theater. It might not be a perfect movie, but in terms of being released here in America during what’s called the “stinker month” of every year, it’s a masterpiece of aquatic proportions. So if you’re looking for a serious, intense, and great thriller to add onto your list of 2015 films for the year, then I definitely recommend “Black Sea.”