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REEL BOB: ‘Black Sea’

by on January 21, 2015
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Black Sea-inside

By Bob Bloom

“Black Sea” is a treasure-hunting thriller that sinks beneath its own pretentions. We’ve seen this type of story before: Men go hunting for gold — in this case, millions hidden away beneath the Black Sea in a Nazi submarine — and everything goes wrong with the “perfect plan” to retrieve the hidden wealth. It’s one of those movies that you analyze after the fact and realize how sloppy and cumbersome the plot really is.

Jude Law stars as an unemployed submarine captain — he was let go by the salvage company he worked for — who’s hired to find the Nazi sub and bring up the gold. He gathers a crew — part British and part Russian — because the only sub his employer can get his hands on is a rust bucket of a Soviet vessel from the Cold War era.

What is most grating about the film is the way the characters irrationally change to suit the parameters of the plot. Catastrophe upon catastrophe is heaped upon Law and his crew, and it becomes redundant and tiresome — and dramatic overkill.

Law, with a scruffy beard and an accent that meanders between Scottish and Irish, at first is a level-headed leader. Then, in time be becomes an undersea Fred C. Dobbs, seemingly infected with gold fever. Members of his crew begin killing each other and sabotaging the sub, yet Law doesn’t lock up or put anyone in restraints.

Director Kevin Macdonald apparently is trying to make an underwater allegory about corporate greed and the lengths that people — and businesses — will go to in attaining wealth, no matter the cost in lives. “Black Sea” is shrill and strident — an overall unpleasant experience. Law fights hard to make his commander an honorable person with noble intentions, but it feels phony and contrived.

A point comes when you begin playing the “Who’s next” game — selecting which of the crew will be the next to go, then deciding who the survivor or survivors will be.
“Black Sea” does offer a few interesting and tense moments, but not enough to sustain its 115-minute running time.

The air runs out of the film as quickly as it escapes from the rusting relic that carried its crew and us on a tedious trek. At least, we had the luxury of coming up for air once in a while. “Black Sea,” on the other hand, is as stale and dank as the breath the filmmakers tried to pump into this potboiler.

Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob ( and The Film Yap ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes:

2 YAPS out of 5
(R), graphic violence, disturbing images, language

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