Black Sea

Action,Thriller

Modern submarine drama with Jude Law and Jodie Whittaker Discuss this article

They’re such scary places that it’s hard to make an absolute hash of a submarine movie. The challenge lies in coming up with a fresh take on the (sorry) sub-genre that doesn’t tread on familiar Second World War territory, or tepidly reheat Cold War hostilities.

Kudos then to writer Dennis Kelly for this engrossing modern tale. Here, a group of disgruntled former employees of an ocean salvage company hire a clapped-out Soviet sub to retrieve lost Nazi gold from the bottom of The Black Sea. The grizzled Anglo-Russian crew are all on equal shares, which seems straightforward enough. But then they begin to clock that the loss of one or more of their shipmates would mean a fatter payday for everyone else. So we’re all set up for an undersea ‘Treasure of the Sierra Madre’, where languishing in a rusty tin can 350 metres below the surface might be the least of everyone’s worries.

The story’s the real star. But Jude Law brings unexpected gravitas and a treacly burr to his role as the embittered Scots captain whose desire to wreak revenge on his heartless bosses may yet cloud his judgement. The excellent supporting cast vividly realise the script’s escalating inter-crew animosities: volatile diver Ben Mendelsohn lends some credibility to an over-pitched resident psycho part; financier’s minion Scoot McNairy is in appropriately weaselly form; and the ever-winning Michael Smiley provides a steady supply of Ulster-accented gallows humour. The detailed set design also contributes to the oppressive claustrophobia.

Overall, Black Sea runs a few fathoms short of classic status. But its blend of old-fashioned storytelling values and zeitgeisty relevance make it a worthy addition to sub-aquatic cinema’s nerve-juddering legacy.

By Trevor Johnston
Time Out Doha,

Black Sea

  • Duration: 115
  • Released: Thu, 29 Jan
  • Classification: 15+
  • Language: English
  • Director: Kevin Macdonald
  • Stars: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn

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