17 mar. 2015

Black Sea (5/10): A submarine thriller that fails to deliver on the thrills.

“I lost my family because of this job.”

A thriller that fails to keep me at the edge of my seat is always a bad sign, especially when it’s from a director like Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) whose work I’ve appreciated in the past (with the exception of The Eagle). I could forgive the lack of thrills if at least there was some investment in character development, but other than Jude Law’s lead character there wasn’t any depth in the rest of the cast. To make matters worse, there are several characters that seem to make terrible and unreasonable decisions. Everything seems to go wrong for the misfit crew members of the submarine during their quest in search for gold in the Black Sea and they don’t make matters easier by making dubious decisions. There is so much at stake for these men, but considering there was very little effort put to give them some depth I didn’t really care if they survived or not. Macdonald tries to make this a claustrophobic film about desperate men who are forced to these extreme conditions because they’ve been wronged by their employers, but it is hard to care for these people or even root for them and that is perhaps the main reason why I never felt the tension. The greatest dangers they face are themselves rather than the typical external conditions because there is a lot of suspicion and division. 

Jude Law is Robinson, a submarine Captain who has recently been fired by his employers after 30 years. One night at a bar, his friend tells him about a sunken treasure rumored to be lost somewhere in the Black Sea. Apparently during the Second World War, the Russians were sending Hitler several tons of gold to pay him off so that the Nazi’s wouldn’t invade their territory. The treasure never arrived and Robinson’s friend seems to know where it is. Funded by a wealthy businessman named Lewis (Tobias Menzies) he forms a crew to go in search of the gold. Of course since the gold is rumored to be under Russian waters he must hire several Russian crew members, which of course will affect the interpersonal relations between them. He also hires Fraser (Ben Mendelssohn), one of the best divers he knows although he is completely unreliable and Tobin (Bobby Schofield) a young teenager who Robinson has taken under his wings. Lewis also sends his personal assistant, Daniels (Scoot McNairy) to make sure they report all the gold to him, but he has no experience in a submarine and suffers from claustrophobia. It is implied from the very beginning that the misfit crew members aren’t going to get along too well, but if they want to find the gold they must learn to. 

I don’t know why the film failed to deliver that sense of tension that the trailers promised. I just never found the characters interesting. Jude Law has a strange Scottish accent that I honestly found distracting. Mendelssohn is a terrific actor, but his character makes so many unreasonable decisions in this film that it is hard to understand his motivations. Scoot McNairy is given the role of the nagging character who is always worried about everything. He is in charge of passing on the fear to the audience because everything he worries about ends up happening. His character is simply here in order for us to understand what is going on because he is the new guy who they have to explain things to. I simply wasn’t a huge fan of this thriller and I think that it had potential to be much better. It was tedious at times and I didn’t enjoy the ride as much as I thought I would. The cinematography however was solid and Macdonald does a great job of creating a claustrophobic atmosphere.    

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