Black Sea will leave audiences happy to be walking on land. This tense, gripping movie stars Jude Law as a recently fired submarine captain. Law channels the man we only know as “Robinson” who receives a money-making tip. The tip proves to be a dangerous one: Robinson needs to assemble a team to discover gold in an abandoned WWII submarine.
Black Sea finds its strongest footing once Robinson and company plunge into oceanic depths. With Scoot McNairy playing the spineless Daniels and Ben Mendelsohn showcasing Fraser, a violent loose cannon and legendary diver, Law receives a strong supporting cast. Fraser proves to be a critical character in his stirring of the pot.
Robinson determines that every crew member will receive an equal share of the gold. This infuriates Fraser. The unhappy diver believes the Russian workers deserve a smaller share due to how much their share is worth in a poorer country. When two of the Russian workers pick on Tobin, a young, inexperienced individual Robinson brought along, Fraser foolishly stabs one of them to death.
In an enclosed setting, human nature reveals itself. Paranoia and desperation sink in. The Russians band on one side of the sub, and Robinson and his men fill the other. The problem? Every man is needed in unity for the mission to be successfully completed. Robinson discovers solace in Morozov, an English-speaking Russian willing to play the role of mediator. He calms his countrymen from murdering Fraser as the group bands back together to trek forward.
From here, Black Sea becomes satisfyingly unpredictable. Too many movies have a definitive narrative with an anticipated result. Throughout Black Sea, we go back and forth between believing a happy or miserable ending will arrive. As men die in premeditated murder, diving accidents, and drowning, the movie reaches tense heights. And in the midst, Fraser and Tobin are surprisingly able to find the ship and bring in the gold.
What’s gold if it can’t be spent, though? We learn this unfortunate truth from Daniels. Rather than be a mission designed to reach an early retirement, it turns out this was a fool’s errand all along. Robinson and his team were always intended to be captured prior to evading with their gold. Daniels and his company men planned this trick from the beginning.
Determined, Robinson calls multiple bold tactical moves and pushes his men to extreme lengths in order to avoid capture. If it weren’t for Daniels and Fraser’s collective stupidity, they might have made it. But Daniels convinces Fraser to murder a Russian worker so Robinson will call off the trek and surrender. After all, with members dropping like flies, the mission can’t go on.
Fraser’s spilling of the blood predictably harms the entire team. Robinson continues forward and havoc is the result. Daniels, Fraser, and others drown. The only survivors are Robinson, Tobin, and Morozov after the sub fails and reaches the oceanic bottom. Ironically, the men are trapped at the bottom of the sea with enough gold to make them rich forever.
Two of the men do make it rich, though. Robinson helps Tobin and Morozov exit the sub and plunge upward in escape suits. Robinson claims he’ll join them if possible, but he all along knows imminent death is his fate. Instead of dying with all the gold, Robinson smokes a cigarette and selflessly puts loads of gold and a picture of his son in the last escape suit. Tobin and Morozov, may you live in wealth, and Robinson, may you rest in peace.
Black Sea comes as recommendable without a doubt. Law delivers one of the finer performances of his career. Mendelsohn continues to show his underrated chops. He’s also shined in The Place Beyond The Pines and Animal Kingdom. More than anything, Black Sea rivets the audience with the horrific repercussions that come with malfunctions occurring well under the surface. As havoc transpires below comfortable depths, human nature surfaces right up to the top.