Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea is a wonderful edge-of-your-seat thriller. The seafaring adventure sees Jude Law play the captain of a submarine, eager to discover sunken Nazi gold lost deep in the Black Sea. MacDonald’s 2014 film embraces the well known submarine movie tropes but he delivers everything you’d want in this type of thriller.
Laid-off from his role as a salvage captain, Law’s Robinson hears the story of the sunken treasure from a friend. He puts together a team of former work-mates and Russian sailors to score enough gold to put them all in the black. Bank-rolled by a rich business man who is eager to become richer, the crew set sail to find the German U-boat and fulfil their wildest dreams. As the submarine sinks to deeper depths, tensions rise high and disaster looms as the men begin to lose trust in each other.
Macdonald has put together a no-frills thriller that scores gold on every level but at the heart of this is his cast. They have nowhere to hide in this close-quarters environment and they all rise to the challenge and put in great performances. Maybe the most surprising is Jude Law. Law plays his role with a thick Aberdeenshire accent (a pretty good one too), adding depth to a role which could have been the only one that lacked colour. Law has improved with age and his wrinkled looks and receding hairline add a weather-worn look to him. Maybe he’s settling into becoming the character actor that he always should have been.
Jude Law may anchor the movie but he’s not the only one who impresses on a performance level. The standouts being Scoot McNairy is good as the company man charged with keeping an eye on his crew and Ben Mendelsohn, who brings his usual twitchy creepiness to his role as an untrusting diver. Michael Smiley and Grigoriy Dobrygin also score character gold as the sailor who seems to be the only one with sense as the silent and thoughtful Russian sailor who keeps Law’s conscience in check.
Black Sea is a thriller first and foremost but Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly throw in a few extras layers to give it added depth. They have a lot to say about global economy and big business, however they also tackle the deep desires of men. The submarine crew in Black Sea come together in a common goal of achieving wealth but they’re torn apart by the craving to have more. It’s this look into the abyss of desire which adds the darkest aspect to Black Sea’s core.
Kevin Macdonald is creating a filmography filled with interesting thrillers and Black Sea can now sit beside The Last King of Scotland and State of Play as a captivating genre piece. Macdonald’s film may not sail into original waters but that’s not to say it isn’t a great seafaring adventure. Black Sea is searing piece of entertainment.