Black Sea Review: Jude Law Shows Depth In New Thriller

Black Sea review
out of 5

For the second year in a row, Jude Law has appeared in a film that highlights how far he’s come as an actor. As his widow’s peak grows larger, and the lines on his face grow deeper, Law has shed the overblown “sex symbol” status and replaced it with with a wonderful showcase of true acting ability. Last year he flexed his muscles as the lovable loser and titular hero, Dom Hemingway, and this year, Law turns in an inspired performance as Captain Robinson in Kevin MacDonald’s Black Sea.

Black Sea is the story of a salvaging company submarine captain (Law) who’s laid off without a pension, after giving his life to his job, at the cost of his beautiful wife (Jodie Whittaker) and son that he never got to watch grow up. Bitter and broke, Captain Robinson is recruited by his fellow laid off seamen to go after a secret Nazi sub full of gold that their previous employers discovered on an expedition. Robinson sees this as a way to strike back at the company that wronged him and he assembles a ragtag crew to journey to the bottom of the Black Sea to find untold riches and a life he feels he has earned.

Black Sea Review

Jude Law and Grigoriy Dobrygin search for Nazi gold…

As the majority of the film takes place in the tight confines of a steel tube, deep below contested waters, Law and his fellow actors, including Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Konstantin Khabinskiy, and Bobby Schofield, among others, are forced to rely on their skills as thespians, as the scenery is essentially red-lit steel walls, ladders, blinking equipment, and yards and yards of pipe. And none of the performances disappoint.

The script, by Dennis Kelly, starts off like Oceans 11 in a submarine, but quickly evolves into a tense thriller as the crew, equal parts Russian and Britons, begin to fight with one another about everything from superstitions to shares to the quality of the food. And in such a tight space, on a clandestine mission to steal millions of gold from “the man,” the tension ramps up and people start to die. Director Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland) ably keeps the pace tight, as the film never bores, and the levels of tension ebb and flow like the ocean before a storm.

Black Sea does toe the line into the cliche pool in spots, but the performances of the leads help keep the ship afloat. I mean, you can only do so much with a submarine movie, and the same tropes are there, but Law’s Captain Robinson has a character arc that shows the lengths that one man will go to get his revenge on the people who wronged him. Having lost out on a chance to be a father to his own flesh and blood, Robinson takes the new kid, Tobin (Schofield), under his wing and does all he can to protect the 19-year-old, even as the rest of his crew disintegrates.

Black Sea review

…And they find it, but that was the easy part.

Black Sea does have an issue with the sound mixing. With so many various accents, including Law’s thick Scottish brogue, and the ambient sounds of machinery, it was hard to pick up lines and dialogue. This was particularly evident in the heart-stopping third act when the remaining crew is literally clawing at each other’s throats as the mission teeters on disaster.

Sound issues aside, Black Sea is a fine nautical thriller that hits the right notes of tension, action, and claustrophobia, while highlighting some amazing acting performances, especially from Jude Law, who has become one of my favorite working actors in the last few years. The whole production works as a character study of what happens when blind ambition replaces common sense, and the drive for revenge replaces the drive to survive.

Black Sea is rated R and is in theaters now.

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