Last year I went out to the Black Sea. We found something!
The last review I posted was of a film that was released in America more than 50 years ago and now I’m going to the other end of the scale and writing about a film that has only just been released in my native England, and doesn’t even come out in America until January, the submarine based thriller, “Black Sea”.
Now, I know some of you will be wondering why I am reviewing a film that I have no idea whether it will be well known or not and the only reason I am relatively confident is because it hasn’t been advertised at all in the UK….and it’s an English film, so it stands little chance of breaking America if the advertising is done in the same way. There’s also the fact that sometimes I watch a film and I just want to review it, regardless of whether I think it will be well known or not.
I must admit that I actually went into the film not knowing a lot about it. I had seen a 10 second advert for it on TV and got the basic premise, but I decided to go in otherwise completely blind to the plot, the characters and anything else in general. It will also be the last film I will see at the cinema in 2014 and I liked this film so much that it actually becomes a contender for my favourite film of the year that I’ve seen on the big screen (I would love to add “The Theory of Everything” because that would win hands down, but it’s not actually getting released yet. I would recommend that when it comes out).
But anyway, I digress.
Robinson (Law), a former submarine captain for a salvage company, has just been made redundant but because he never had a contract, his compensation package is significantly lower than he expected and because of this he is enraged. He soon hears of a sunken submarine from World War Two that is rumoured to hold around £180 million worth of gold bars that can’t be brought up by his former company, even though they know about it (due political unrest of the Black Sea between Georgia and Russia) and he decides to get it himself.
He enlists the help of 11 other men, 5 British and 6 Russian, however, they are accompanied by a representative of the expedition’s financial backer, Daniels (McNairy). Although all seems fine at first, some members of the crew feel that evenly distributing the bounty of unfair, mainly Fraser (Mendelsohn), who enrages the Russian half of the crew when he kills one of them.
In the ensuing fights, the sub sinks to the ocean bed and devoid of energy, and now they have to hope that the Nazi submarine is somewhere nearby, not only for the gold but to also take it’s motor, otherwise they will never survive.
So why’s it so good and are there any negatives?
I’m going to start this section with the only major negative I have from the film and that is the camera work. There are scenes that have been properly filmed with a proper set up, but there are others that have adopted the shaky-cam method, and boy does that cameraman shake. It’s really hard to follow the film sometimes with characters, who are sitting down, bouncing all around the screen because the guy couldn’t keep a camera still.
Now don’t get me wrong, I feel that in some scenes it works well and you understand why it’s been made like this. A submarine is a very claustrophobic environment and both the actors and the cameramen were squeezed into the small set and because of this it actually feels very realistic and you can see that some of the actors, mainly McNairy, don’t have to act like they feel confined, and that is where the film works exceptionally well, you feel trapped, a lot like the men on the submarine, afterall, when you’re underwater, especially several hundred metres, there is literally nowhere to run to to escape the unnatural feeling.
It is one of those unnatural feelings that is shown midway through the film that I found to be shown in a very realistic manner as Tobin, an 18 year old, is very inexperienced when it comes to being underwater and panics when he is submerged in water after agreeing to go out and see if the other submarine is around. His panic is very realistic, as is his struggling to breath, and the reason I know it’s realistic is that I went diving on holiday this year and it took a long time to get used to the sensation of breathing under water. It was something that I never got used to and I love that the character also doesn’t truly adapt as it feels real.
The realism continues in many scenes and without going into it too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. One character gets trapped in an area that is quickly filling with water and you can see his panic as he realises that he is going to die and his desperate attempt to stay above the water, even more so when he is eventually submerged himself.
Infact, the realism throughout is excellent, as is the character development and it’s been a while since I’ve seen a main-stream film with development this good. There are characters, such as Fraser, who you absolutely hate one minute but then find yourself routing for the next, and there are very few characters that don’t fall into that category. You never truly know what to expect or who is actually worth investing in as a character because they are all developed very well, even the characters that don’t speak English.
The language barrier adds a level of tension that the film always keeps to an enjoyable level and doesn’t overly play on it, which is excellent. It’s been a while since I felt tension like this when watching a film and there are many scenes where you are just glued to it because you don’t know what’s going to happen in a very hostile or dangerous situation, right from where two characters are going to fight, one is trying to convince another character to kill someone, or when the submarine is trying to navigate between two huge plates of rock when all they can go off of is echos from the sonar. It’s suspenseful to the point where when it eventually ended, I wanted more, and that’s what you want in a film. I don’t want to watch a film and be glad it’s ended. What’s the point?
I really don’t want to into the film fully into it because as I say, the film hasn’t even been released to the majority of the world yet and I want you all to enjoy it as much as I did. Unlike most films I review, I feel that I can’t really spoil this one too much, and there are a lot of things to spoil about it, so I think it’s better if I leave this here, although the one thing I would say if you’re looking at the cast list on Wikipedia or IMDB, it mentions that Tobias Menzies and Jodie Whittaker are in the film, so if you’re looking forward to seeing either of them I wouldn’t get excited as their combined screen time is less than 30 seconds, and the latter of them is only seen in flashbacks.
British cinema comes out with yet another exceedingly enjoyable film and shows other film making nations around the world how to do suspense without having to treat the viewer like an idiot and give it a cheap get out. In every situation you genuinely feel that the characters can die and some die far, far, far earlier than you would expect characters to start dying in this film.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I will be writing an article about the best films I have seen at the cinema this year and I already had my number one sorted before I saw this, but now I might have to reconsider.
Just go and watch it, sit back and enjoy.