- RatedNC16 /GenreAdventure, Thriller
By now, you probably have an idea how submarine movies go.
Think back to ‘The Hunt For Red October’, ‘Das Boot’, ‘U-571’, ‘Crimson Tide’, and the spooky 2002 horror flick, ‘Below’ (my favourite no-way-out submarine film).
They feature claustrophobic and air-less death traps. They are so dark and dingy in their inescapable corridors, you really wish there is a window somewhere, which you can open just to breathe a little, only you will face death by drowning.
The overall effect is akin to being sealed in your oily garage with all your greasy tools and equipment, and then dumped and sunk completely into the sea.
There really is a joke (a rare moment of humour in the movie) about windows in ‘Black Sea’, when a rookie onboard looks for windows to clean.
For sure though, nobody is cracking many jokes because this gripping undersea drama-adventure is very serious, portraying greed, violence and a bit of nobility, which are often always well-magnified in an enclosed space full of dirty, grimy and desperate men.
Jude Law as Captain Robinson leads his makeshift, antagonistic skeleton crew of British versus Russian seamen in a derelict, abandoned Soviet-era sub on a hunt for sunken treasure in the murky depths of the Black Sea.
The Cold War may be over, but these distrustful cats and dogs still fight it out under the ocean as tribal enemies in their oversized sardine can.
Every crusty tough guy here is a working-class dreg who needs the money and also a long-overdue shower.
Especially Law, who is outwardly stern but inwardly bitter after he is laid off by his callous, cutthroat salvage company.
Somehow, this angle humanely defines Law’s Captain Proletariat character as someone being driven by social injustice and not by mindless greed.
This, of course, is a very British inequality thing as this Anglo venture, directed by Kevin Macdonald (‘The Last King of Scotland’), sinks into anti-capitalist waters.
The Black Sea, by the way, is that huge inland sea bordered by current foes, Russia and Ukraine.
You have to give some points to this movie for being somewhat relevant in a present geopolitical sense because the sub needs to evade the Russian Black Sea Fleet stationed there as it sneaks around surreptitiously below it.
Cue the hide-and-seek tension involving sonar pings, heightened silence and nervous faces.
Pity you need to deduct those same points off for the preposterous idea here of the sunken treasure being many bars of gold worth millions left in a secret Nazi submarine, lying all these years at the bottom of the sea.
Apparently, Hitler sent the gold to his former ally, the Soviet Union, in World War II, before changing his mind and declaring war on them, and the U-boat carrying the loot was lost in the process.
Even if that conspiracy is plausible, this movie is telling me that modern Russia with its super-sophisticated underwater detecting powers can’t find this sub while good old Captain Robinson with a creaking boat and a squabbling crew can?
For ludicrously added tension, the Russian guy tasked to pinpoint the vessel uses a rickety stopwatch to bounce off sound waves.
The story tries to salvage this loose plot point by making Robinson such an experienced and respected old hand at salvaging the mysterious depths that even these Russian roughnecks onboard obey his orders dutifully.
That is like a growling Rottweiler listening to a stubborn bulldog in a kennel built for only one seadog.
Jude Law in 'Black Sea' | Photo: Shaw Organisation
Only this fair-minded captain, you see, can control these hotheads of bickering Eeast-versus-west nationalities and here, I side with the Russians because it’s a homicidal British mad man who endangers everybody with his bad racist behaviour and turns this whole deal into a face-off in an iron coffin.
The ensuing action is quite well-worked-out with the explosions, flash floods and scary close calls (don’t ever put on a diving suit to haul gold, I tell you), all while the submarine, no pun intended, hits rock bottom.
The lawlessness is held ably together by the highly watchable Jude Law nonetheless.
It calls to mind how he has submerged himself into varied roles and emerged infinitely more interesting.
He used to be a vacuous pretty boy.
He is now a tough skipper who can command both a submarine and a performance which isn’t – excuse me – sub-par.
‘Black Sea’ is now showing in cinemas