Sub standard is superb for Jude
After a blistering start to his directorial career (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play), Kevin Macdonald’s last couple of feature films (The Eagle, How I Live Now) have seen a nosedive in quality.
Black Sea marks a welcome return to form for the Scot as he makes several impressive choices behind and in front of the camera.
Dennis Kelly’s (Spooks, Utopia) story follows submarine captain Robinson ( Jude Law) and his efforts to keep the peace with his former employers by plumbing the depths of the titular sea for a vessel supposedly loaded with gold.
A true ensemble piece, this ship-shape thriller is more than just a star vehicle for leading man Law.
From the always reliable Ben Mendelsohn (Fraser) to Argo’s Scoot McNairy (Daniels), the cast is incredibly strong across the board.
McNairy, in particular, gives a wonderfully splendid performance in what could easily have become a one-note, boo-hiss character.
Jodie Whittaker (Chrissy) — through flashbacks — adds heart as the only female presence of consequence, proving it’s not all about boys and their toys and physical and mental showdowns.
The predominantly unknown Russian cast match their western counterparts too with an eclectic mix of personalities, headed up by Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man).
And what of the Law man? His Scottish accent may waver at times but it’s oceans above Harrison Ford’s laughable attempts at Russian in fellow sub-based thriller K-19: The Widowmaker.
Robinson means well as he struggles to keep his head above water due to the actions of his crew in what is a confident, imposing turn by Law.
There’s no Perfect Storm-type enormous tidal waves or sign of any torpedoes being fired at our vessel dwellers for those looking for an action fix.
The focus, instead, is on familiar — and contemporary — storyline ideas taking in class wars and tensions between Russia and the west.
A sense of foreboding flows throughout the near two-hour running time and Robinson and crew grow more and more desperate as the stakes are raised. It goes without saying the submarine setting makes for a claustrophobic atmosphere but Macdonald and cinematographer Christopher Ross (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) add beauty to the cramped environment, as well as scope through above and underwater shots of the sea itself.
Ilan Eshkeri’s score helps build the tension, which reaches whiteknuckle territory as the twists and turns in Kelly’s script play out.
Black Sea is a throwback to oldfashioned, Sunday afternoon viewingstyle storytelling and a gripping yarn to leave you gasping for air.
Pure gold Jude Law’s Captain Robinson is in line for a pay rise