Reel Shorts | Black Sea


A recently-dismissed submarine commander and a motley crew of sailors try to uncover a hidden treasure buried at the bottom of the ocean in underwater thriller, Black Sea.

After over 10 years commanding submarines, Officer Robinson (Jude Law) is unceremoniously fired. Having devoted his life to the sea, his dedication to his career has cost him dearly, his wife and child included. Robinson has lost everything that meant anything to him and he is, for lack of a better word, pissed.

Later, while drinking with his friends and the reality of their jobless situations setting in, someone gives Robinson an idea for them to get paid. Apparently, there is a sunken U-boat on the bottom of the ocean filled with $180 million worth of gold. They locate an investor willing to put up the money for a generous percentage of the haul and to make sure everything stays on the up-and-up, the investor sends his assistant, Daniels (Scooty McNairy) to ride shotgun on the trip.

One can’t pull off a successful heist without a talented crew. Robinson assembles his “Dirty Dozen,” twelve men (six Russians and six Brits) to find the buried treasure, including one “wild card,” the hot-headed Frasier (Ben Mendelsohn). Director Kevin McDonald is adept enough to know that without a few challenges, the story wouldn’t be worth watching, so not surprisingly the submarine this motley crew uses looks like it was also a WWII vessel. One man short, Robinson brings along a fresh-faced kid, who you know will be used later in the story to humanize the commander’s character.

When you mix men of different nationalities in a contained vessel underwater with the potential for a lot of money, not surprisingly greed will rear its ugly head. Soon enough, a violent incident occurs on the sub and several men are killed and injured. Compounding the fact is Robinson understands that every loss makes it harder to operate the vessel effectively.

Dennis Kelly’s screenplay effectively builds the tension as each man literally is risking their lives for a huge payday but are trusting a commander who also appears to becoming unhinged in the process. It doesn’t help that Daniels is so cliché as the prototypical bad guy, that his actions are no surprise.

Law gives a solid performance as the embattled commander who is looking for one huge payday but is saddled with some obstacles that are difficult to overcome. From films as varied as Dom Hemingway to Closer, Law continues to dazzle, even with this gruff, every man performance.

MacDonald’s high-stakes submarine adventure is the latest addition to an impressive canon of work that includes favorites such as State of Play, Marley and The Last King of Scotland.

The best reason to see this film is Law, who holds the proceedings together with his usual understated intensity. At the end of the day, Black Sea is an efficient underwater thriller that has familiar, as well as, predictable elements and protagonists that will keep you on the edge of your seat but won’t stay with you too long after the lights come up.

Grade: C+