Starring: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn
After losing his job on salvage submarines, former naval officer Captain Robinson (Law) puts together a crew of unemployed British and Russian sailors (oh, and an Australian) to embark on an extremely dangerous mission for a shady employer: Find a German U-boat that was sunk during World War II and is rumoured to contain a fortune in gold. However, the claustrophobic conditions and language barriers only serve to make the mission even more perilous.
When the leading actor dons a different accent to their own natural accent for a serious role in a serious film it can sometimes be what dominates talk of that film. Well, Jude Law’s attempt at a Scottish accent (more specifically an Aberdeen accent apparently) seems to dominate talk about Black Sea. Well, not being Scottish I cannot comment and just how accurate it is, but for me it never hampered any involvement in the film or was off putting in anyway. Admittedly Jude Law would probably not be my first choice for this kind of role as a hardened, bitter and deeply intense character like Captain Robinson. Many have argued as to why he cannot just do his own accent like all the other characters, however if you have Jude Law in this role then is natural middle class English accent wouldn’t be right, so considering that, perhaps a Scottish accent makes some sort of sense.
Yes, I may have started my review talking about Jude Law’s accent, but I just wanted to get comments about it out of the way so I could get on with reviewing the film. Well, the plot is certainly quite generic and completely submerged in flaws, plot holes and clichés galore, but Black Sea is a well made and very watchable thriller.
The plot is a pretty generic one that treads similar waters to any other films of this genre and it is these that drive the plot along, making certain elements a little predictable. Likewise there are some half hearted attempts at social commentary and the current class divide, but these go pretty much nowhere and the character arc of the main protagonist is extremely clichéd, even at one point being similar to Thorin’s in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies but in its predictability comes almost an air of satisfying reassurance.
The supporting characters themselves are all a checklist of clichés, as are the inevitable relationships that develop between them that drive a lot of the plot and the acting is not exactly great either, but is fine from the vast array of nationalities, but crucially every actor (except Law) are just doing their own natural accents. So thankfully we get Russian characters played by actual Russian actors, instead of English actors doing silly accents. Law himself (accent aside) certainly looks the part and gives a decent performance of hard edged intensity and bitter resentment with the world.
Though Black Sea is very generic in terms of narrative structure, this is all done with enough competence, but thankfully to make up for this it is very well made. Kevin MacDonald is a competent film maker and though it isn’t exactly Das Boot, he creates a genuine and authentic claustrophobic atmosphere throughout as our characters find themselves alone in a small confined space at the lowest depths of the black sea. There are also some well crafted moments that do actually feel genuinely quite tense as our crew of clichés try to overcome certain obstacles; how the obstacles arise are pretty predictable, but how they overcome them provides a fair amount of intrigue and some of the film’s best moments. Black Sea will not win any prizes for originality or being truly gripping, but it is never less than watchable from start to finish.
A film awash with plot holes, clichés and contrivances; Black Sea is almost more enjoyable because of just how reassuringly generic its narrative is, however it a competently made, atmospheric and occasionally a genuinely tense thriller.