June 4, 2020

What we’ll do for gold – Jude Law growls his way to ship-wrecked Nazi treasure in Black Sea

Who’d have thought so much could go wrong on a rusty old submarine?

Even if you bought a brand new submarine for circa $2.5 billion (not including missiles) there’s a lot that can go wrong. When you’ve got yourself an ancient ex-Soviet vessel that hasn’t passed a submarine MOT for years the likelihood is there will be a few problems along the way.

This is the case in Black Sea, in which a shaven headed, Scottish Jude Law leads a band of misfits on a treasure seeking journey. Lured by promises of gold they head to the depths of – well, you can probably guess which sea.

Law plays Robinson, a man who has devoted his life to the sea, losing his family in the process. Defined by his job, right at the start of the film he loses even that, leaving him open to an invitation to head an expedition to find Nazi/Soviet gold. Given the underhand nature of the project, and the eccentric nature of the colleagues he has to call on, the crew is not as mentally stable as you would prefer for such a mission. Worst of the lot is Fraser, who is good at diving but brings the slight baggage of being a psychopath. The other men recruited have other flaws that will only be magnified by being sealed in a tin box with each other for an unspecified amount of time. To make matters even more explosive, half the crew is Russian, doesn’t speak English and several of them have similar punch-first philosophies to the Brits.

My experience of submarines is limited (to this film, Das Boot and The Hunt for Red October, if we’re honest), but to untrained eyes the vessel Robinson sets off in looks like a heap of rusty junk that will have mechanical issues before it gets out of the harbour. Actually they manage that feat, but watching Black Sea does becomes a case of wondering what the next disaster will be. The film is a litany of Oh no we’re not going to make its.

Surprisingly tense in parts, Black Sea is like a stage in the Tour de France. It’s rather a slow burner with occasional bursts of excitement and really only kicks off a few minutes from the end. Law’s Robinson revels in the brutal life of the seaman, but demonstrates fairness and honour in a world – like most – where those qualities are in short supply.

A Biblical spoiler would be to suggest – look away now if you know your Bible – that the whole film is a bit of an illustration of Matthew 16 v 26. I won’t elaborate further (I think you should – Editor), save to say that though a suspense-adventure, Black Sea demonstrates the folly of human greed.

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