Films set on a submarine are almost of their own unique genre. By placing characters in this confined, dark, damp and most importantly, isolated space, it triggers a range of emotions – a certain suspense that derives from this claustrophobic environment, where the characters are at the bottom of the sea, disorientated and far away from home. These very themes provide the backdrop to Kevin Macdonalds intense feature film, Black Sea.
When Robinson is unjustly sacked from his position as a submarine captain, he is then presented with the opportunity to use his impressive skill-set in a unique, covert mission off his own back. When informed there is gold in an abandoned submarine in the depths of the Black Sea, he is left to assemble a crew of British and Russian workers, such as Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn) and Reynolds (Michael Smiley) to set off on this expedition. Though aware of the potential dangers that lie ahead, the biggest threat to proceedings is the crew – as tensions mount beneath the sea.
For several years now, Macdonald has alternated between dramatic features and documentaries, displaying a distinct aptitude for both. However in this case the innovative filmmaker takes too much of a generic turn, resulting in a thriller that doesn’t feel in any way unique; using tropes of the genre to help tell this tale – such as the hackneyed flashback sequences we see that could have come right out of a late night Channel 5 drama. However thankfully the overwhelming sense of intensity makes this piece watchable, as we examine the human psyche, and what we as a race can be capable of when the impending threat of danger looms menacingly, in a similar vein to the likes of The Lord of the Flies.
This atmosphere is created with a deft execution. The filthy, confined spaces provoke a feeling of enclosure, as the character’s close proximity to one another is almost suffocating. So while you may sit in the cinema, feeling underwhelmed and unfulfilled at this relatively tedious, conventional piece of cinema – when you leave, you’ll certainly appreciate breathing in that fresh, outdoor air, which you may never take for granted again.