With a half Russian/half British crew of ex-submarine divers and engineers, Captain Robinson (Jude Law) commands his crew to follow him into a derelict Soviet Submarine to the depths of the Black Sea in search of sunken gold. The unstable political environment dictates that the only way to steal the gold is to go undetected underneath the Russian Naval Fleet patrolling the Black Sea.
Captain Robinson (Jude Law) an ex-Royal Navy Captain pulls together a crew to find a sunken U-Boat of Nazi Gold worth 182 million. A private investor is promised a 40% cut of the gold and the rest is to be divvied up between each member of the crew in equal shares. At the 15 minute mark, Daniels (Scoot McNairy) says to the Captain, “what happens when one of them figures out that their share gets bigger when there are less people to share it with?” and so he forebodes the entire film.
As the crew becomes more desperate to find the sunken U-Boat and it appears as though the sub is going to sink, Captain Robinson’s judgment becomes impaired by the greed. Law's performance is commanding as a lead and his desperation for his estranged family is apparent. Flashbacks of the Captains family on a beach holiday recur throughout the film in an attempt to make his character's motivation for greed more tangible. He also develops a friendship with the youngest member of the crew, Tobin (Bobby Schofield), and consistently bids to protect him to ensure his survival. Fairly early on you find out that Tobin has a baby on the way and the Captain's own failed marriage and fatherhood fosters a protective instinct for Tobin's future.
With gold in their sights and the claustrophobic pressure of being deep underwater, there is an incredible tension amongst the crew. As you would predict, their greed leads to the crew turning on each other and the question of who will survive arises.
One of the more interesting plot lines in the film is the dynamic between the half Russian and half English crew. The Russian men are stereotypically clad with enough facial hair and attitude to sink the sub. There are a few great one-liners in Black Sea, one Russian turns to an unknowing Brit and says with a smile, "When we get to the top, I'm going to eat your liver". The British characters lay abuse on the Russians from early on in the film and create the tension on the vessel. At times the crew segregate themselves into Russian vs British and at other times have to pull together for survival. Inevitably, greed bonds and distances the crew, as one of them puts it, “We live together or we die together”.
Director Kevin MacDonald (known for The Last King of Scotland) has attempted to show the motivation for the crew in this submarine heist and communicate a larger message about self-determination. The plot falls short, losing the greater message for the sole motivation behind each characters place in the sub, greed. The film stays true to its thriller heritage with suspenseful music and tense standoffs but loses the audience with its predictability.