UNIVERSAL PICTURES
UNIVERSAL PICTURES

★★★★☆

“Black Sea” is a thrilling, treasure-hunt adventure story; it depicts a group of men desperate to overcome their circumstances and achieve the prosperity they’ve always desired. It keeps audiences on the edge of their seats and takes them on a journey of great depth, both literally and figuratively.

Captain Robinson (Jude Law), like many others on the crew he compiles, is fired from his job at a large naval company. He is given a small settlement but no real prospects for future work. He then hears of a wealthy investor looking to fund a submarine expedition in search of a Nazi U-boat full of gold. Robinson puts together a crew of unlikely companions — half English, half Russian — to venture into the Black Sea to recover the lost treasure. Audiences soon see that the men have little prospects in their futures and, frankly, little to lose. Each enters with one goal in mind — to gain extravagant wealth — and each will go to great, life-altering lengths in order to achieve it.

As somewhat-expected, the crew’s journey does not proceed untroubled. The old submarine they are provided with soon faces technical difficulties and tensions swiftly arise between the two groups of men in the crew. As the submarine proceeds further into the depths, the outcome of the expedition looks bleaker and bleaker, and soon the men are fighting not just over the gold, but for their lives.

Jude Law is virtually unrecognizable as Captain Robinson — his thick Scottish accent and blue-collar lifestyle are very different from characters audiences have seen Law play. Robinson is a captivating character, however, and displays a more mysterious demeanor as the film progresses. He is witty and levelheaded at the film’s commencement, but the circumstances soon change his outlook and ultimately his choices.

The film is directed by Kevin Macdonald, a Scottish native, who has produced and directed several films involving (as this film does) personal struggle amid difficult circumstances. The camera angles and production design of this film accurately capture the intimate and at times claustrophobic nature of life in a submarine. The tight spaces also serve to heighten the tensions between the Russians and the Englishmen on board. The sensitive dynamic that exists between the groups is, like many conflicts, formed from misunderstandings. Greed and self-assurance swiftly consume the minds of the crew onboard and ultimately lead to the danger they face in the later stages of the film.

From the start, audiences are enraptured by the harrowing journey into the Black Sea. Because of the movie’s balance between its overall plot and the more intricate character development of the crew, each success the group experiences vibrates throughout the audience and each failure is felt prominently. One of the film’s strongest components is its depiction of each crew member’s motivations at various stages of his journey. As circumstances change and the men grow more desperate, the film shows how one’s logic can unravel as survival instincts take over.

The film also offers a unique commentary on the tense relationship between corporate executives and blue-collar workers and the deceit that often comes at the hands of the former. Audiences feel for the people further down on the social ladder, who work tirelessly for elusive corporate executives and see firsthand the detrimental effects of missed opportunities.

“Black Sea” is an entertaining and enlightening thriller about the lengths to which men will go in order to overcome their seemingly hopeless circumstances. It is a gripping and moving story that mirrors much of the human experience in terms of perseverance, strength and, ultimately, sacrifice. Prepare to hold your breath and take this dramatic journey into the depths of the Black Sea and the intricate web that is the human psyche.

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