Jude Law does his best to keep Black Sea afloat. Unfortunately this modern pirate/submarine thriller sinks underneath the weight of its generic screenplay and negligible characters.

A rogue submarine captain (Jude Law) pulls together a misfit crew to go after a sunken treasure rumored to be lost in the depths of the Black Sea. As greed and desperation take control onboard their claustrophobic vessel, the increasing uncertainty of the mission causes the men to turn on each other to fight for their own survival. [Focus Features]

Black Sea presents a lot of potential.

The product design is superb, immersing the audience in an old submarine with innumerable gauges and other old school fittings that need to be manually operated. The movie shows the tedious process of operating the whole thing that solely depends on the crew’s skill.

The crew of half British and half Russian presents tension and cultural differences. The inevitable demise of their career due to technology is timely. As we see the rise of robotic automation – from software to unmanned vehicles – many will be displaced. Soon enough the desperate men turn on each other once they realize that they’ll get a larger share when there’s fewer men on board (a nod to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre).

Unfortunately, Black Sea is also burdened by a screenplay that couldn’t lift the narrative past mediocrity.

The claustrophobia and dread slowly builds up with the help of the detailed interior of the sub, but the look from the outside while in the depths is murky and poorly rendered. The narrative obstacles are well executed enough to keep you from dozing off thanks to a committed Jude Law, but they’re predictable and generic as far as sub films go.

The one note stereotyped characters suddenly flip motivations and the movie never addresses the repercussions of  their actions. Jude Law and Ben Mendelsohn manage to add some depth to their underwritten characters, but others weren’t so lucky because they got nothing to work with except to die and/or appear at the right moment.

The movie finishes with a logic-bending happy ending.

Black Sea either had to settle with character-driven drama or edge-of-your-seat-action. Unfortunately the script didn’t provide enough for either. The film is more preoccupied with the mechanics of its submarine that its own story.

My Rating: 5/10

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