Black Sea Review


By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

If you ask 100 people which types of films they like, you’ll get answers ranging from action and comedy to drama and animated. Those are a few of the big general categories of films. You may also get a few off-the-beaten-path responses like art house films, documentaries, and Japanese animated films. But one you most likely will not hear is submarine films. Now, films with submarines can fit into many other categories, but you don’t necessarily see many of them. That’s why Kevin Macdonald’s latest film, Black Sea, is a slight anomaly being that it is a foreign cast film that takes place on a submarine.

In present day Scotland, Captain Robinson (Jude Law) has recently become unemployed and there isn’t much work for a man who captains submarines. With the situation looking very bleak, a fellow unemployed friend, Blackie (Konstantin Khabenskiy), pitches an offer he was told about to Robinson. This is an off-the-books mission, privately funded. The job: to locate a sunken German WWII U-boat containing Nazi gold and salvage the gold. The problem arises with the U-boat’s location in the Black Sea, stuck between Russian and Europe. Robinson takes the job to captain a Soviet-vintage submarine with a crew of English and Russians (who speak zero English). With a crew who can’t communicate and the promise of wealth, will the crew be able to work together or will a new war erupt at the bottom of the Black Sea?


Macdonald keeps the film fast-paced and tense, all the more heightened by the close quarters the crew has to live within. There is much talk of avoiding detection from the Russian fleets that patrol the Black Sea above, but the real threat lies within the confinement of the submarine. Each man has joined the mission for one reason or another, yet they all share the common goal of wanting to get rich quick. Macdonald brings forth the evils that men do when money is the driving factor. The lies, cheating, and manipulation done to others, and the decisions humans make when put into situations where sometimes, sacrifices must be made in order to have a greater outcome. We know how the relationships are going to play out early on, it’s just the way the greed affects each man and the actions they take against those who are supposed to be their brothers on board that sets it apart, especially considering a crew of this nature, knowing they need each man to perform a certain role on board and make certain decisions to off people who are needed for the mission’s success. Greed knows no bounds.

While it takes a whole crew to operate a submarine, this film falls on the shoulders of Law and he is able to keep the film afloat. One could imagine any captain in this type of situation possibly falling apart considering he’s dealing with his own demons, has a crew that is a ticking time bomb, and has a mission to accomplish. Law is edgy and charismatic and appears to be in full control of the situation, even when things begin to unravel at an ever-quickening pace. Law also delivers the fight between good and evil, one man’s internal battle that ultimately leads him to make certain choices that would be difficult for even the most adept of individuals. At times, we may think that humanity has no hopes at redemption, and all it takes is one person to make a sacrifice, to show some kindness or have a moment of enlightenment to remind us that it does. Law brings these aspects to his performance as Robinson and keeps a rather predictable script afloat.


Black Sea isn’t going to break any box-office records, nor will it be seen by a high number of people. But, in regards to films based on submarines, it ranks towards the top of the more entertaining and eye-opening. The performances all around are very good and the tension is palpable on board the submarine. We feel confined within the steel boat the entire time and, like the crew, anticipate something explosive happening. We know there is going to be tension, and we know that gold and greed plus distrust will lead to deaths, so it is predictable in that sense, but Macdonald keeps us engaged the whole time with few moments of lull. Black Sea may not be the best film out at the moment, but it was a valiant effort.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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