Monday, February 2, 2015

Good Sub Tale and Grim Russkie Drama


“Black Sea” Best Submarine Suspense Flick since “Das Boot”

By Skip Sheffield

“Black Sea” is the best submarine suspense movie since “Das Boot.”
That is a bold statement, but “Black Sea” is a bold film, anchored by Jude Law in one of his best performances ever. Law plays laid-off submarine Capt. Robinson. In order to pay off some debts, Capt. Robinson, who has lost his job of 30 years, his wife and his son because of his all-consuming career, takes on the risky business of leading a submarine crew in the Black Sea in search of a scuttled Nazi U Boat rumored to be carrying $40 million in gold bars. If they find the booty, the proceeds after 40 percent going to the backer of the mission, will be divided evenly among captain and crew. To keep an eye on things, Daniels (Scoot McNairy), who represents the investors, is along for the ride.
Capt. Robinson finds a ragtag old submarine and assembles a ragtag crew of misfits and one 18-year-old boy, Tobin (Bobby Schofield).
The crew, half U.K. and half Russian, represents various stereotypes. There is Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn), the possibly psychotic Australian; dour Russians Morozov (Grigory Donrygin) and Blackie (Konstantin Khabenskly), crusty Irishman Reynolds (Michael Smiley) and an old-timer (David Threlfall).
Basically it’s a recipe for disaster. We are not disappointed, for things start going wrong right away, and get worse and worse.
Director Kevin Macdonald keeps the suspense tight, and despite the familiar conventions of the plot, there are surprises. If you are claustrophobic as I am, “Black Sea” will make you uncomfortable and grateful you will never have to undergo such a misbegotten undersea voyage.

"Leviathan" No Feel-Good Russian Travelogue

"Leviathan," which is playing a limited engagement at the Movies of Delray, is the antithesis of a feel-good travelogue. Although it is Russia's Best Foreign Film entry for the Academy Awards and has already won a Golden Globe Award in the same category, Russian officials have turned on this film for its perhaps too frank, pessimistic look at the former USSR in the Putin era.
"Leviathan" is relentlessly grim and downbeat, depicting a Russia no tourist would ever want to visit. Aleksey Serebryakov is Nikolai, the Job-like main character who stands to lose everything he has worked for, including his house and land, which corrupt officials are seizing through eminent domain for their own gain. There is an equally corrupt, drunken Orthodox priest who offers no salvation. In fact everyone drinks too much vodka, including Nikolai. While the script won Best Screenplay at Cannes Film Festival, director Andrey Zvyagintsev has done nothing to soften the harsh criticisms of a country that looks like a snowy version of Hell.

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