Review – Black Sea

Poster for 2014 submarine thriller Black Sea

Genre: Thriller
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 5th December 2014
Runtime: 115 minutes
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Writer: Dennis Kelly
Starring: Jude Law, Scott McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, Bobby Schofield, Michael Smiley, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Jodie Whittaker
Synopsis: A submarine captain recruits a ragtag crew for a dangerous journey to receive Nazi gold from a sunken U-boat.



Submarines continue to be a fascinating environment for cinema to explore, from Das Boot to The Hunt for Red October. The latest entry in the genre is British thriller Black Sea, starring Jude Law as the captain of a treacherous voyage to the wreck of a German U-boat in the titular body of water.

Robinson (Law) is laid off from his job as a submarine captain, but receives word of a sunken U-boat full of Nazi gold at the bottom of the Black Sea. With the help of a crew including Russian navigator Morozov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), volatile diver Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn) and street teen Tobin (Bobby Schofield), Robinson mounts a voyage to the depths.

Boasting a tremendous ensemble cast of international stars, Black Sea is a genuinely gripping thriller. Director Kevin MacDonald makes the most of his claustrophobic setting, amping up the paranoia and aggression of the testosterone-fuelled environment. The use of a real submarine for the scenes adds a sense of grimy realism that props up the stripped-down narrative.

| "I lost my family because of this job."

For all of Black Sea’s good points, the film suffers from the utterly infuriating mess of a Scottish accent that Jude Law is doing. Like a cross between Groundskeeper Willie and Mel Gibson in Braveheart, he blunders into a hideous brogue. It’s mind-blowing to think that a Scottish director could think it was a decent rendering of the accent.

Despite that, though, Law’s performance as the stoic, but ambitious, captain is a solid one. Ben Mendelsohn continues to shine as a grimy scumbag and Scoot McNairy is perfectly cast as the snivelling corporate stooge. The standout is youngster Bobby Schofield, who is heart-breakingly grounded in his portrayal of a teen going nowhere desperate to earn a good life for his unborn child.

Throughout the third act of Black Sea, MacDonald proves excellent at gradually building tension. The danger from the elements, their own greed and each other ratchets up brilliantly as the film edges towards its tense climax. There’s a real feeling that absolutely nobody is safe, which makes the way the story pans out very difficult to predict.

| "What happens when one of them starts to figure out their share goes up when there’s less people to share it with?"

It’s not a perfect film and suffers from some uneven pacing, but thanks to great performances and a real mastery of tension, Black Sea is one of the more entertaining thrillers of the year.

It’s just a shame about Groundskeeper Willie in the leading role.


Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

Powered by a terrific ensemble of actors from all over the world, Black Sea joins the crop of tense thrillers set on submarines.

Despite Jude Law’s awful attempt at Aberdonian, he shines as the veteran in charge, with Bobby Schofield’s youngster a perfect counterpoint.

By the time the body count rises and the peril starts to build, it genuinely feels important who it is who gets out alive.


Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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