Having been unjustly sacked from his position as a submarine captain, Robinson (Jude Law) has the chance to swiftly get back into old habits and take on a mission of his own, when confronted with the prospect of gold. Taking on the job from an elusive backer, introduced to by Daniels (Scoot McNairy) Robinson assorts a crew made up of mostly of former colleagues such as Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn) and Reynolds (Michael Smiley) to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine that is rumoured to contain millions of pounds worth of gold. However, in a crew that consists of both the Brits and the Russians, it seems the biggest threat to this expedition, is each other.
Similarly to the likes of Lord of the Flies, the most defining aspect to this production is the bleak study of the human race, and how when in a confined space, with an impending sense of danger, looming menacingly over them all, it can alter the human psyche in quite an alarming manner. This intensity is aided triumphantly by the tense and claustrophobic setting of a submarine, where there is, quite literally, no escape and an overwhelming sense of disorientation. You feel anxious, uneasy and uncomfortable, and upon leaving the cinema after the final credits roll, you crave fresh air like never before.
However the aforementioned ambiance is not enough to save this feature from its generic tendencies, which is a shame where Macdonald is concerned, as a filmmaker who has always seemed inclined to push boundaries and be eclectic in his approach. However the way this story is told is hackneyed and banal, such as when the manipulative music kicks in to remind us all that tension is mounting. Or the cheap use of blurry edges to signify we’re watching a flashback of a happier, more blissful time. We’ve seen it all before.
It’s a shame this is the case considering the wealth of acting talent attached to this title. Yet the likes of Smiley and Mendelsohn have so little to work with, with such unrefined characters. Nonetheless, Mendelsohn remains the best thing about Black Sea, as he’s just so accomplished at portraying inherent, maniacal tendencies, with a unique ability to just be so vacant and unhinged behind the eyes. That being said, there is still a palpable disconnect between the viewer and these characters, and considering all of their lives are at stake, that does prove to be something of an issue.