Sunday, February 01, 2015

Black Sea

I don't know whether MoviePass or my phone was acting up the last couple of days, but I didn't see this on Friday night because I just could not get the app to work, and the problem seemed to be repeating itself on Saturday until I finally got to the point where it said I had already checked in, which was weird. I suspect it's my phone - reception has suddenly turned to crap in the last few days - but it's frustrating.

Glad I did, even if the movie did seem to take a turn when it became more about conflict among the crew than salvage operations. I almost wonder if it started as a disaster-filled treasure hunt only to have the infighting added in order to make it more an actor's piece.

Speaking of the actors, here's a funny thing: For some reason, I've got Jude Law mostly filed away as an odd fit for action, more a softly handsome period-piece/upper-classs-snot/romantic-comedy type, and I'm not sure how that happened. I guess it's from seeing him early in Wilde, Gattaca, and The Talented Mr. Ripley - and Sky Captain wasn't exactly the gritty sort of action/adventure - but it means that practically everything I see him in now seems to be him playing against type.

Similarly, it was funny to look up a couple of the Russian actors on IMDB and see that Konstantin Khabenskiy was the star of the Night Watch movies and Grigoriy Dobrygin was the kid from Black Lightning (and had a big role in A Most Wanted Man for good measure). Felt like I should have recognized them even if I've only seen them brieflly over a period of years.

Black Sea

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 31 January 2015 in AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)

The basic ingredients of Black Sea don't appeal to everyone, but it's got claustrophobic subs, lost Nazi gold, an underwater setting that can look like an alien landscape, and grizzled ex-Navy types who respond to an investor representative's worries that the ship will sink with "it'd be a useless f---ing submarine if it didn't". It's maybe not quite the ideal arrangement of those things, but good enough for an afternoon's thrills.

The first piece to fall in place is Robinson (Jude Law), a Scottish submarine pilot being laid off after more than ten years with an underwater salvage company. He's commiserating with fellow downsizing victims Blackie (Konstantin Khabenskiy) and Kurston (Daniel Ryan) about lousy job prospects when Kurston mentions something he spotted in the Black Sea a year ago - a WWII U-boat that sank while carrying over two tons of gold that the Soviets sent Germany as a loan before the two were at war, ripe for the taking since ownership of the area is disputed between Russia and Georgia. Soon enough, they're underway with a half-British, half-Russian crew, although the Russians want nothing to do with Tobin (Bobby Schofield), an 18-year-old kid who takes Kurston's place, and nobody cares for Daniels (Scoot McNairy), the "banker" there to represent the investors' interests.

And then there's the likes of Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn), who is the best diver for this sort of job but also a pot-stirrer, which the other twelve people in a rusty Soviet-era sub don't really need. To a certain extent, the movie doesn't need it either; there's more than enough inherent peril to the situation to make for an exciting adventure without setting the crew at each other's throat. That's especially true when you consider that Dennis Kelly's script often seems to raise, drop, and reconfigure those tensions in fairly arbitrary ways: Fraser will throw the ship into utter calamity, but then there will be remarkably little tension when the movie needs him to just be an expert diver. Daniels is an afterthought for much of the movie. The practical difficulties of the two halves of the crew not being able to understand each other because only Blackie is bilingual and he's out of action are not an issue for very long.

Full review at EFC.

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