3 out of 4 stars
Somewhere near the bottom of the Black Sea inside a gloomy Russian submarine that’s seen much better days, Jude Law found the light.
Law shines in Black Sea as Capt. Robinson, a British sailor who drowned his personal life by loving his job as a submariner for a private salvage company more than his family. But after Robinson’s company fires him after a decade of service, he’s left with nothing except dreams of his wife — and finding millions of Nazi gold in a German submarine that was sunk by Russia during World War II.
Only in Hollywood can this happen: a man gets fired and within days, finds an investor (Tobias Menzies) to dump money into finding a submarine that may not even exist and hires a crew of mercenary sailors. But it gets better: Robinson somehow buys a submarine in — of all places — Crimea and somehow gets permission to dive to the depths in a Russian-controlled area of the Black Sea.
The chances of that happening? Who cares. It makes for a great story. And that’s what makes Black Sea so great. It isn’t some colorful, cinematic masterpiece or an artistic treasure. It’s a dark, violent film that centers around greed and the constant questioning of how much a life is really worth.
That’s why a submarine is the perfect setting for Black Sea. There’s simply no where for anyone to run or hide. The crew must confront each other as factions are born and crew members die trying to become millionaires.
Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and screenwriter Dennis Kelly make great use of a cast that easily passes as a bunch of self-serving British and Russian renegade sailors throughout the nearly two-hour film.
Black Sea provides its fair share of twists and turns, which is fitting since Robinson has no choice but to find a way to get a bunch of sailors from different countries to trust each other.
Peters (David Threlfall) is an old man whose emphysema often leaves him gasping, while Tobin is a teenager who has never been on a submarine. The rest of the crew serves its purpose by cooking, performing engine maintenance and navigating. But two are memorable: Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn), the sub’s psychotic master diver and Daniels (Scoot McNairy), a spineless underling of the expedition’s financier.
But the star is Law, who hasn’t delivered a stellar performance in a big-time movie since being Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which made more than $545 million at the box offices worldwide in 2011.
Black Sea won’t strike that much gold at the box office, but it enough to restore the luster to Law’s career.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 18 years experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He’s also an editor for CBSSports.com. He’s crossing his fingers the only baseball team in Baltimore that will contend for a title this summer won’t be his fantasy squad, the Catonsville Cartel. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.