Black Sea (2014)

Lost Nazi gold and claustrophobia are the centerpiece of this heist thriller. Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and staring Jude Law, the storytelling brings the viewer on a gleefully uncomfortable journey of adventure, greed and redemption.

Jude Law (Closer, Enemy at the Gates, Alfie) portrays Captain Robinson, a lifelong submariner who has given everything to the sea and to his career. After his employer downsizes and Robinson is a casualty of this, he leaves behind his work bitter and having already lost his family. Robinson is seen not dealing well with his struggle for purpose, drinking with an old crew mate who has also been a victim of layoffs. Robinson’s human weakness is one that can appreciated by us all, after being offered an opportunity to once again captain a submarine and with it the promise of riches, he sees a chance to find redemption and make a quick and easy fortune.

Law’s character must assemble a crew to intake this mission; however from the beginning it is clear that not everything is as it should be. Shadowy figures are pulling strings in the background and this is where Robinson’s humanity is painfully evident. After losing everything and his desire for an easy payday mean that these early warning signs go unnoticed by all but the viewer.

The half British and half Russian crew is assembled and the target of sunken Nazi gold is the prize, submerged off the coast of the Ukraine and lost aboard a sunken Nazi U boat. The crew gatherers and boards their transport, an old and reconditioned Soviet vessel. As the submarine descends into the the black depths personalties don’t mix and the claustrophobia of such close quarters escalate.

The direction of the story beautifully encapsulates the tensions felt among the crew, exploring the national tensions between two less than friendly allies as well as the difficulties of working under such pressure and with obvious issues such as not everyone being able to speak the same language. The camera work and lighting of this environment enhance the feelings of suspicion and inescapability of conflict. It is this feeling of confinement throughout the film, the small spaces and awkward corridors that give the viewer an empathy for the crew mates; each with their own agenda and hopes for the riches promised.

What truly drives this film is the excellent performance of Jude Law’s Captain Robinson, his steely determination to complete his mission and absolute faith in his ability to work with anyone. With the perils and obstacles of such a daring underwater heist, things are bound to go wrong. As the mission comes close to being a complete failure the leadership of Robinson and the assistance of members of the crew make the viewer think that maybe this misfit arrangement has a chance; those familiar with this genre of film will already know that things cannot go to plan for too long.

As the mission starts progresses it becomes clear to everyone that Robinson and his crew are working against forces that have been manipulating them from the very beginning. Combining the events above and below the surface brings the film to a high octane and adrenaline fueled fight for survival against multiple forces and the lines between friend and foe are expertly blurred back and forth.

Themes of greed, sacrifice, friendship and redemption run throughout the film and whilst elements of the story might be familiar to many film fans, it is the performances of the cast that compels the viewer. Not only does the action on the screen drive the story but this is meshed beautifully by the work off the camera, direction and lighting work wonderfully to immerse the audience in the action and the creeping feeling of unease as the narrative develops.

The complexities of different personalities and the suspicion of those that are different from us is a deep storyline within what on the surface is a simple story an highlights the problems that can arise and fester between people, especially when there is no place to escape.