Sunday, 11 October 2015

Black Sea

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Country of origin:UK / USA / Russia
Director:Kevin Macdonald
Genre:Submarine thriller
Starring:Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Michael Smiley, David Threlfall
IMDB link:

Tagline:No tagline
Favourite line:"They fired men like flushing shit down a toilet. Well... this time the shit is fighting back."

Life on a submarine is tough.
Especially when you’re hiding from the Russian navy, searching for Nazi gold.

The plot:
Robinson (Jude Law), unexpectedly fired from his job as a salvage worker on underwater operations, is a man with problems. Estranged from his wife, with a son he no longer sees, his world appears to be spiralling relentlessly downwards.
Sitting in the pub one day, with colleagues who have also been made redundant, news reaches him that, somewhere, at the bottom of the Black Sea, lies a sunken German U-Boat, chock full of Nazi gold, millions of pounds worth of the damned stuff.
Hastily assembling a crew, and gaining financing from a shady business sort, Robinson and his motley gang set sail and, before you can say pressurised environment, the crew are falling apart, the vessel is falling apart and, most crucially of all, his mind is falling apart.
How many will make it out alive?
Does the gold even exist?
And what’s with ‘the suit’ that the shady investor insisted come along for the ride.

A bit of a pot-boiler, really, this is fairly predictable stuff in terms of plotting. Sure, some of the twists along the way are slightly unexpected, but all the major riffs are familiar for this sort of film.
Tensions rise as surely as the pressure on the hull of the craft in which they are submerged.
Games of cat and mouse are played with enemy vessels.
The sub ends up on the sea floor, apparently stranded.
But just because the strands are familiar, does not mean that a pleasant enough garment cannot be woven.
Jude Law is frankly riveting as the man on the edge, spiralling into greed-driven mania, the allure of the gold over-riding all common sense and reason, to the point of endangering everyone on the vessel. And you know, watching this, we came to the conclusion down here at Smell the Cult HQ that Law would make a fabulous Bond when Daniel Craig eventually holsters his Walther PPK.
Scoot ‘Monsters’ MCNairy is suitably slimy and, effectively, plays the role of Burke from Aliens, the insider, working for the company against the men whom he is trying to befriend.
And there’s more to this than simple claustrophobic clout. Much of the dialogue focuses on the disparity of wealth in the world, the injustice of the capitalist system and the fact that, to be frank, shit always seems to roll downhill. It’s a commentary railing against the one-percenters, a mind-set very much in the moment and contemporary, but one which will surely still resonate many years hence.
The submarine subgenre – no pun intended – is surely one of the most reliable of all types of film, to the point that it is hard to think of a bad example. Red October, Crimson Tide, heck, even Below, are all quality films, high on tension and drama, and this is no exception.
Only a couple of minor quibbles.
One of the characters, Fraser, largely responsible for the BAD STUFF that happens, is hard to believe in, his actions seemingly out of all proportion to what is actually happening on screen and, once he’s done the thing necessary in order for the plot to progress, the character doesn’t really follow through with any great conviction. It’s an odd bit of writing, and just felt like 'MacGuffin of the week.'
Lastly, we could have done without the soft-focus flashbacks to Robinson’s happier times. We get it. He was happy once. He had a family and hope and optimism and a future. OK. Once was enough. No need to ram it home.
That aside, a rollicking good sub-bound thriller that most should find something to enjoy in.
Oh, and it’s directed by Oscar winner Kevin MacDonald.

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