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dir Kevin Macdonald
scr Dennis Kelly
prd Kevin Macdonald, Charles Steel
with Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Grigoriy Dobrygin, Bobby Schofield, Konstantin Khabenskiy, David Threlfall, Ben Mendelsohn, Michael Smiley, Sergey Veksler, Sergey Puskepalis, Sergey Kolesnikov, Jodie Whittaker
release UK 5.Dec.14, US 23.Jan.15
14/UK Film4 1h55
OK, here's the plan: Law talks tot he crew
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Sharply well-directed in a wonderfully clanky, rusty submarine set, this film uses high-energy thrills to make up for its absurd screenplay. Watching it is an exercise in frustration as intelligent characters and situations give way to increasingly silly plot points that strain to add wrinkles to an already complicated heist story. It's entertaining to watch, but ultimately a little too ridiculous.
After losing his steelworks job, Robinson (Law) and unemployed pal Blackie (Khabenskiy) team up to salvage the wreckage of a Nazi sub that sank in the Black Sea with a shipment of gold on board. Money man Daniels (McNairy) joins the crew along with psycho diver Fraser (Mendelsohn), veterans Peters and Reynolds (Threlfall and Smiley), hapless 18-year-old Tobin (Schofield) and five Russians. But old tensions break out the moment their rusty sub begins its dangerous journey, sneaking under the Russian Fleet. Getting the gold will be a challenge; returning home will be a miracle.
Sure, assemble a team of lowlifes and mercenaries and just hope everyone gets along! As paranoia leads to arguments and violence, more than the heist is jeopardised. By telling this story with kinetic pacing and urgency, director Macdonald makes it feel like Robinson perhaps should have thought more clearly about who he brought on-board. Because this gang is a recipe for disaster, and screenwriter Kelly delights in writing one crazed calamity after another, like a killer who's stalking horror-movie victims.
That all of this happens in such a clammy, claustrophobic place adds to the trouble, and just about anything that can go wrong does. Fortunately, the adept actors deliver such focussed performances that they're almost believable as characters. Law holds everything together as the charismatic, forceful leader, with especially strong support from the weaselly McNairy, wide-eyed Schofield and strong-silent Dobrygin. The others are relatively interchangeable. And Whittaker is merely the token female, appearing in flashbacks as Robinson's wife.
Oddly for Macdonald, the film avoids political commentary aside from the mini Cold War that puts the Russkies and Brits at odds with each other at either end of the sub. There are other political things going on that are lost in the rush to the next sharply well-staged, intensely suspenseful set-piece. And frankly, it's difficult not to think of another movie about British men who were laid off and did something drastic to reclaim their dignity. But then no one risked their life in The Full Monty.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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