I’m a sucker for a good submarine pitcher. I liked a lot of things about this one. Not least, its reverent updating of the group psychology of John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948 or thereabouts; you look it up). Black Sea‘s main protagonist is played by Jude Law spluttering some kind of weird Lewisham-Aberdeen hybrid brogue. As he sinks deeper and deeper (no pun intended) into his obsession — salvaging Nazi gold from a shipwreck — his face becomes progressively shinier and dirtier. This was a solid take-away from the original film, too, with Bogart as the unspooling maniac: when a film star loses his grip on hygiene, violence and treachery are right behind.
Another thing I liked was that Jude Law’s hairline now appears to be the same as mine. Sure, it took him twenty years to catch up, but what the heck — we’re even. (At this point, no one can predict which of us will snag the Phil Collins role in the yet-to-be-greenlit rockumentary Genesis: In the Beginning. Since I possess the superior voice, Jude’ll probably get it.)
Verisimilitude seems to have been a high priority for Black Sea. Law evidently did a training stint on an active Royal Navy sub. Not only did this immersive experience (again, no pun intended) give him a convincing feel for the homo-erotics of cramped life in a submerged metal tube; it also taught him how to curse literally like a sailor.
According to my research, many of the interiors were shot in a mothballed mid-60s vessel of the Foxtrot-Class that some kooky English submarine collector — yeah, I don’t get that either — keeps moored on the River Medway, near the city of Rochester. It’s a space so cluttered with dials, conduits, wires, fuses, hoses, valves, bulkhead hatches, and little blinky control-panel lights that it beggars belief how they squeezed a camera inside, let alone found thrashing-room for choreographed Anglo-Ukrainian fistfights.
I do have one gripe. Obviously it’s never scary enough or anxiety-provoking enough to watch a dozen guys at each other’s throats, trapped ninety meters deep on a pitch-black anoxic seabed while driveshafts crack and fuel lines explode and ballast tanks burst. But is there absolutely no way to enhance our discomfort, short of a full orchestra thrumming semiquavers at us in never-ending spiccato? I ask you!