|Macdonald's film works like a familiar charm.|
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Produced by Charles Steel and Kevin Macdonald
Written by Dennis Kelly
Starring Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn and David Threlfall
Submarine thrillers are in short supply these days, and Macdonald's film is a fine return to the genre. After Robinson (Law), an undersea salvage captain, is fired, he learns of a sunken German U-boat with gold that could be worth over $100 million. Robinson and two friends/colleagues secure financing from a mysterious millionaire, and they assemble a group of British and Russian crewmen to complete the dive and recover the gold in an old Russian submarine. Once they're beneath the surface, the tension mounts, as Robinson informs the crew that every man, after the millionaire gets his cut, will have an equal share of the profits. The millionaire's executive (McNairy) is against this, and it does create more friction between the crew members, especially between the volatile Fraser (Mendelsohn) and the Russians. When everything goes wrong, the gold might prove to be the last priority, as the very lives of the crew are at stake.
Naturally, a film like this is not particularly original, nor will it be remembered at the end of the year. That said, it's a swift, claustrophobic thriller that sticks the course. Despite an unnecessary plot twist, Macdonald is able to keep the plot moving, and any familiar elements of the genre are welcome in such an atmospheric piece. The stakes are high in this film, as it explores greed and the value of life. The confinement of a submarine is a perfect device to tell such a tale. Of course, the cast and production team do a fine job as well. Law is as reliable as ever, even managing to adopt a convincing Scottish accent. Mendelsohn is in danger of typecasting, but he doesn't let that get in the way of his characters, as he proves with another fierce, grounded performance. The rest of the cast are mostly non-English speaking actors, and they all do solid work. On top of that, the arresting cinematography, sharp editing, and rich score create a fantastic underwater experience. It won't be getting any awards attention, but Black Sea is an early gem from 2015.
Oscar Potential: None