On the Silver Screen – Black Sea
Jude Law stars as Captain Robinson in Black Sea, the story of a submarine crew tasked with searching the depths of the Black Sea in order to loot a submarine rumoured to be loaded with tons of gold.
The film starts out really well for the most part. Captain Robinson seems to be a sympathetic character as our introduction to him sees him let go from a job he has held most of his life. There’s nothing wrong with his work and it’s purely a cost saving exercise. There are hints at the very topical debate of zero hours contracts and general restructuring. It’s something that is easily relatable in the UK at the moment.
I had a lot of fun with the early parts of the film. I always enjoy the setup to a heist movie that involves getting the right team together to pull of the impossible task and get the big score. This film does all this pretty well and lays the groundwork for some decent conflict in bringing together a British and Russian crew. There’s some commentary on the dangers of greed and the problems that occur when dangerous financially motivated people are thrust together.
Friction exists among the crew almost immediately with the young Liam (Karl Davies) being the butt of all the jokes from the more seasoned members of the crew. It’s a fairly typical trope for a film like this to adopt. Picking on the young guy always happens in these sorts of films and I think it worked here for the most part. Davies is likeable enough to root for him in these situations and it always seems likely that he’ll find acceptance from the others at some point.
There’s something of a father/son dynamic between Robinson and Liam throughout. Robinson takes the young man under his wing and gives him the benefit of his life experience. It basically becomes an avatar for Robinson’s characterisation being informed by the regrets he’s had in his life. Offering Liam the benefit of his experience is something of a second chance for him to do things right by someone younger. There are absolutely no surprises here and it is all entirely predictable but Law’s performance is good enough to add a sense of legitimacy to it so this aspect of the story works more than it doesn’t. Law’s acting in this film is generally really good despite the painful Scottish accent. At least he never slips from it but it is not good. I’m not sure how the story would have been changed by making him English.
Everything starts to fall apart around halfway through the film when the mandatory peril scenes start to set in. Some of the claustrophobic action is really good but it boils down to having characters in danger who I’ve been basically trained to dislike through their actions against one another throughout the film. Ultimately I didn’t really care about any of the characters so seeing them in danger was fairly meaningless. If there’d been some complexity to most of the characters then it might have given these scenes greater urgency but as presented I found it pretty bereft of tension.
There’s a fairly terribly handled socialist message in here. Robinson is all too eager to make many tired speeches around the theme of the working class being screwed over by those who make the decisions. It wouldn’t be so bad if he weren’t such a hypocrite. Robinson is entirely focused on making himself rich. he wants equal shares for everyone but he wants to be rich as he feels that he is personally owed something as a result of him falling on hard times.The flashbacks involving the wife who left him are painful to watch and such an obvious attempt to provoke an emotional connection.
If Liam had been the protagonist this might have worked given that he was recently told that a woman he knows is expecting his child. His motivations for making money are the most noble of all the characters and his naivety makes him a character to root for. It’s a shame the focus never went to him given how easily he could have carried the film.
A very uneven film with a strong first act but falls apart in the second half of the film. Jude Law’s performance is strong enough despite an awful Scottish accent that never manages to be convincing. He manages to ably carry the film and plays a character who is pretty likeable.
The story follows a lot of the heist movie tropes but manages to make them entertaining enough at first. It becomes fairly tiresome once it becomes obvious that everyone wants to betray everyone else. It boils down to a collection of unlikeable characters wanting to off each other which doesn’t make for all that interesting viewing considering there’s a lack of engagement over who lives and dies.
All of that and a hypocritical socialist message that isn’t as profound as the writer things it is makes for pretty forgettable viewing.