Rated: R for language throughout, some graphic images and violence. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: January 23, 2015 Released by: Focus Features
Jude Law (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Dom Hemingway) stars under the direction of Kevin Macdonald (Senna, The Last King of Scotland, Marley) in a watchable, claustrophobic undersea thriller with gloomy working-class sensibility that gets a little hokey after animosity escalates.
In Black Sea his Robinson, a former Scottish submarine captain is dispatched from his salvage company position and sees an opportunity for a golden 'Nazi' windfall from a lost Russian vessel. He'll lead a group of idle part Scottish and Russian sailors and engineers setting off in a rare not fully operational diesel Russian sub to find the buried cache.
Of course, the scheme is complicated by the conditions around the avarice as the sharp convincing accent of an assertive Law has Robinson doing his utmost to keep the rag-tag crew concentrated on the task at hand from the churning maintenance of scenarist Dennis Kelly (known for the small-screen Utopia).
This type of tale is cognizant of the demands of this type of thriller and mostly delivers especially on the casting and production sides. It might seem a bit Cold War-like for some as the tension gravitates from convincing contributions by designer Nick Palmer (using an actual sub for a portion of the shooting schedule) and lenser Christopher Ross.
On the Eastern European side are the Russian crew members from actors like Konstantin Khabenskiy (Robinson's partner) and Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man) balanced by the likes of Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley, and a wheezy David Threlfall. Also, the talented Ben Mendelsohn (Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Place Beyond The Pines) has some scene-stealing moments as a recruited very adept if quite unbalanced diver, while on the distaff end Jodie Whittaker (Venus, Attack The Block) appears mainly for the benefit of understanding the principal character's desperate milieu a little more.
The overstrain in Black Sea is palpable even if it goes there in downed, downtrodden directions to affect serviceable, if unspectacular cinema.