Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Review: Black Sea

World of Blackout Film Review

Black Sea Poster

Black Sea
Cert: 15 / 115 mins / Dir. Kevin Macdonald
WoB Rating: 5/7

One of two things appears to have happened*1. a) Jude Law's Scottish accent in Black Sea is based on someone he knows personally from a very specific town or village in Scotland, and he's been able to deconstruct, analyse and reconstruct their speech patterns flawlessly, or b) Jude Law has never actually heard a Scottish accent before - ever - and has based his performance in this film on a written description of one. It's a very small point to make I know, and it certainly doesn't affect the quality of the film, but why the hell does his character need to be Scottish? None of the others are, it's not central to the plot or location, so why fall needlessly at the first hurdle?

Made redundant from his job as a marine salvage engineer, an emotionally stunned Captain Robinson learns of a recently discovered U-boat at the bottom of the titular Black Sea, filled with Nazi gold. Working clandestinely to avoid detection by British or Russian authorities, a crew is assembled to retrieve the horde; but twelve men setting out solely to line their pockets aren't necessarily going to be the best company for each other in a sealed metal container…

For the amount of run-time set inside a submerged tin can, director Kevin Macdonald does a fantastic job of making the real claustrophobia kick in outside of the submarine. His characters are by turn greedy, spiteful, belligerent and naive, but there's surprisingly little duplicity among the group; they're every bit as abrasive as you'd expect, pretty much from the moment the hatch closes. And it's this tension that the film uses to its advantage as the plot is occasionally far more mechanical that it can justify (the film's revelations may come as a surprise to the characters concerned, but won't extend as far as the audience). Thankfully, the direction and performances save the film from macho-melodrama, although in all honesty I think it could have benefitted from a different leading actor (I'm looking at you, Nina Gold, whose name has been on pretty much every movie I've seen over the last fortnight).

Law does grim determination well enough, but his emoting's on shakier ground here (and yes, that accent keeps dropping a spanner in the works, too). The supporting cast are all on solid (if underused) form, especially Bobby Schofield and Ben Mendelsohn, representing the best and worst aspects of the crew, respectively. The underwater shots of the sub-exterior look absolutely gorgeous, in a murkily-lit impending disaster sort of a way.

Although I couldn't help but note that in Act 1, Robinson is planning the stealth-heist and transfer of the gold, and tells his co-conspirator "I need twelve divers…". Half an hour later he's at the bottom of the ocean giving an exasperated "What do you mean, only two of you can dive, one of whom has emphysema and now I have to also send the homeless kid who's done scuba classes with his youth club?". It's all in the organisation, Jude, all in the organisation…

Released at the tail-end of the year's graveyard shift, Black Sea knows it was never destined for large audiences, but you'll get the best out of the visuals by watching it on a massive screen in a dark room, so really it's made for the cinema. There's much to admire in the film, but not a whole lot of warmth; and maybe it'll be too cold for winter audiences..?

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Pretty much.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Pretty much.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Cinema if you can catch it, or watch it on BluRay with the lights off.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I won't, no.

Will I watch it again?
I'll catch it at some point, but I may not actively seek it out.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
So how come the submarine's at "crush depth" (their words), but when someone gets fired out of the tube in an "escape suit" which somehow leaves his hands exposed (so I don't even know how the seal's going to work), he's not instantly turned into an aquatic pancake? The person in question is told to only breathe-out on the way up, but how long would the ascent take? Is that even feasible? And does this take the bends into account? Admittedly, I know next to nothing about this sort of thing, but Black Sea didn't exactly go out of its way to rectify that…

*1 I'm aware that it could genuinely be the first option. I haven't read any press/interviews/reviews of the film, so I can only imagine that the accent's either been widely derided, or tactfully not mentioned.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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