Laced with convenient storytelling Black Sea is entertaining, but laughable and forgettable. As the lights dimmed and the movie began I thought, “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a great submarine film.” And it seems the wait for the next great one is ongoing. It kept me occupied but as the end credits began so did my realization that this movie isn’t the greatest. I know it’s January, but how long can that be an excuse for poor storytelling? The story lays out a problem that is overcome only to face another problem and another and so on until the film is over. It all feels like bloating to inflate the run time. The dramatic moments fall flat as the characters are two dimensional and apparently disposable as they start dropping like flies. It’s reminiscent of horror films that have more characters than needed simply to allow for a high body count when the killer begins pulling their cards. Before long you start to realize that all these characters are going to die without reason so what’s the point? Why should I invest at all if they’re going to die pointlessly?
I have to give special attention to the jump scare in the film. There is an actual “horror” type jump scare in this and it is hilarious! It took me right out of the movie and left me with a dumbfounded reaction that consisted of me saying audibly “What? Are they serious?!” This jump scare is used as a form of story progression and the eventual loss of a character. It felt as if they were stuck and just added this silly part in to get to the next scene.
There is moment after moment when the characters go from a rage that can only be extinguished by murder to a near state of Zen. I get it, but it’s really just tiring. One particular character does something that angers another and a fight breaks out. A point is made that everyone is needed to complete the objective and everyone calms down. This happens at least three times and by the third altercation you just don’t care anymore. There is an unnecessary moment of extreme violence that is unprovoked and out of place. It is a forced moment of drama that feels over-the-top much like the rest of the film. It comes out of an immediate distrust of one another for no apparent reason. There is no setup leading to their distrust so it’s irrelevant when it comes to a head.
A big element to the overall story is the “little guy getting his from the fat cats” of big, faceless companies. It’s topical but odd in a story of submarine operations and treasure hunts. The main character is determined beyond reason to make it rich in a sort of protest to those that relieved him of his occupation. I expected submarine warfare with some Ocean’s 11 thrown in for style. That’s not what I got. He pushes the limits of what one might deem worthy of risking one’s life to reach so much so it elicits repeated eye rolls of disbelief. With so many unlikable characters the film attempts to gain some sympathy from the audience by trying, and ultimately failing, to humanize the main character played by Jude Law. He has moments of seemingly deep reflection of the family he left behind but it doesn’t matter. They’re reaching for heart strings to pull and they haven’t earned the right to do so.
One of my favorite aspects of submarine films and space films alike is the element of claustrophobia. A few prime examples of this being achieved are Pandorum, Alien, and Das Boot. Not only the confines of the character’s physical surroundings but their mind’s sanity and its breaking point. How these elements can affect a character and their interactions with others can be a fascinating element to a film and Black Sea fails to seize its chance. It could have had a whole psychological aspect to it but instead it is filled with faceless characters doing things that no one in their right minds would ever consider doing. I will meet a film halfway if I must, but no further. This one asks too much with so little in return.
Rated R For: language throughout, some graphic images and violence
Run Time: 115 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Jody Whittaker
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story 2.5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 3/ Visuals: 2
OVERALL: 2.5 Nerdskulls
For a different perspective, check out Logan’s video review:
Check out the trailer below:
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