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Title: Black Sea

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:82

“Black Sea” decides to blend two very unique and very popular genres of films together into one tension filled ride. Submarine movies have been popular for years and people eat up the claustrophobic levels of suspense that is created by being in a tin can under 90 meters of ocean. Next throw in a heist film, put the top on the blender and hit frappe, and voila, “Black Sea”. The film is rather well done and certainly kept me on the edge of my seat, but for some reason was JUUUUUUST shy of being really really good. All the elements were there, but a few leaks in the script made it founder along the second act, but the end result is still very intense with some great performances that cause me to still give this a good solid thumbs up for the enjoyment.

A deep sea salvage operator named Robinson (Jude Law) is let go after 11 years of faithful service due to “the ever changing world of technology”, where his skills are no longer needed. It seems that he’s not alone as friends of his have been given the axe too. Drinking their sorrows away at a pub, the bitter men commiserate about the old days and vent frustrations at being kicked aside like garbage after giving their life to the job. All this changes when one of Robinson’s friends lets him into a little secret. There’s a Nazi submarine lying out there in the Black Sea with over 4.3 tons of Russian gold on board. Due to border issues the rights are still up in the air, even though the location is known to some. All that’s required is some men with skills to go in there and take it under the nose of the Russian army. Seeing dollar signs and a way to stick it to the man, Robinson scraps together a group of men, both Russian and British (though they all seem to speak with Irish brogues), acquires a rich backer and sets sail to steal the gold from under the noses of the authorities.

It’s not been more than a few minutes into the voyage before tension starts rising. Captain Robinson promises each man an equal share of the gold, which causes a racial tension, with the Brits believing that the Russians are getting too much, and the Russians trusting nobody. Tensions get hotter and hotter with it looking like the crew may end up killing each other before they get in sight of the treasure. Lo and behold, the gold is found, but now comes the issue of how do they get it out? Just as they are in sight of the gold someone’s temper gets out of hand a battle between two sailors soon ends up destroying the engine’s drive shaft. Now the men have to work together and get the submarine working once more and try not to kill each other in the process. Even if the most level headed among them has gotten a little gold crazy.

“Black Sea” services as a very entertaining thriller. Its part sub movie, part heist, but the blending together leaves it a very bleak and dire thriller with both sets of men on board at each other’s throat in a battle to survive. Jude Law plays his role as the grizzled and fair Captain Robinson perfectly, although his Irish accent leaves a bit to be desired. It’s interesting to see the change in his demeanor as the film progresses. He starts out as probably the most level headed and kind sailor on board, but as they come closer and closer to their objective his character starts to show the inner workings of his mind. Scoot McNairy plays what he plays best, the weasley little guy who everyone loves to hate. He’s not been on the boat 5 minutes before it becomes clear that he’s the odd man out, and as they get closer and closer to the gold, his desperation and sleazy nature really comes into play.

Director Kevin MacDonald added an interesting subtext into the film, essentially making it a blue collar story of us vs. “the man”. It’s not just about the gold, but about people being thrown away and used up as worthless by the elite, who cheat, steal and bamboozle the wealth for themselves while good men are left with nothing. The evil corporation behind the firing of Robinson does a number on his psyche as this whole mission becomes a personal vendetta for him to “stick it to the man” and take what’s rightfully theirs. It starts off as just getting rich, but as Captain Robinson goes closer and closer to the edge it becomes very clear that it’s more about taking something from those in power, rather than gaining something for themselves. It’s an interesting twist on the usual tale of greed and lust that crop up in heist movies.

The movie had an excellent first act, but floundered just a little bit in the second act. The tension goes downhill as the men are underway and some of the squabbles between the men get a little bit predictable at times. We’ve seen the infighting that happens when money is involved and there is nothing new brought to the table. However, when the gold is found and it becomes a fight for survival against the ocean it really picks up again. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife and the usual energy that happens in a crisis situation is spot on perfect.


Rated R for language throughout, some graphic images and violence

Video :4.5stars:
Universal’s 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer looks REALLY nice, and showcases just how well black levels in a movie can look. The film spends 99 percent of its time in the depths of a submarine, so bright and shiny colors are noticeably absent from the picture. There are some above water shots near the beginning and during the final rescue scene, and those do looks quite stunning. When under the sea in the confines of a dark metal can, the black levels are stressed to the limits and they stand up quite beautifully under the pressure. There’s minimal crush and plenty of shadow detail to go around and the colors tend to say in the range of dark blues and neon reds from running lights. I didn't notice any major artifacting, or banding, leaving the picture looking as good as it can be considering the dark interior shots dominating the entire movie.

Audio :4.5stars:
The single 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on board fares just as well as the video, giving us an aggressive and impactful experience. Most submarine movies are known for their deep throbbing low end and “Black Sea” doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Deep and powerful bass lines pound the listener at ever curve, whether it be the rumble of the engines underwater, or the creaking and groaning bulkheads that resonate with power. The surrounds are given quite a bit of play as they give us all the creaking and tinking sounds of a metal war machine under tons and tons (literally) of pressure form the water outside. The scraping sound of a footstep, or the echoing thud of a wrench hitting human flesh can be heard with pinpoint precision from all directions. Dialog is clean and clear, but the heavy accents of some of the characters make it necessary to bring out the subtitles now and again. That’s nothing against the audio track itself, as they come through flawlessly, but more a creative decision due to the thick brogues being spoken.

Extras :2.5stars:

• A dive into the Black Sea
• Audio commentary with director Kevin MacDonald
• Previews

Overall: :4stars:

“Black Sea” isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s still a wildly entertaining one. It hovers just on the very age of being REALLY good, but somehow can’t seem to climb over that line. There is a great amount of drama and some fun underwater shenanigans, but there’s some lacking pull in the character department, mainly in some of the sub characters. We get the tension between Jude Law and Scoot McNairy, but some of the other characters are a bit flatter than what is required to raise that bar up a little. The audio and video are top notch and while the extras are a bit light, the whole package is well worth watching and having fun with. Give it a watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Kevin MacDonald
Written by: Dennis Kelly
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA
Studio: Universal
Rated: R
Runtime: 115 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 5th 2015

Buy Black Sea On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Check It Out

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