Scotsman Robinson (Jude Law) is a commercial submarine captain, suddenly downsized and without a vessel to command.
Together with his previous colleagues, who cut a forlorn group in the local pub, they hatch a crazy plan to recover Nazi gold, the location of which is known to one of the group.
Pulling together a disparate crew and with the backing of a shadowy money source, they locate an ex-Soviet submarine in mothballs, clear the cob webs and start the engines.
The mission is dangerous, the Black Sea fleet are above but arguably their biggest danger comes from within. The crew put the “M” in motley, with Russians, old timers, a young crewman all but press ganged into the team and the resident psychopath “Fraser” (Ben Mendelsohn), essential in any movie set underwater.
Whether the team can rescue the treasure and bring it safely home is the mission aim but many and varied obstacles litter their path. How they and the captain handle these situations provides plenty of opportunity for drama and claustrophobic tension.
Unquestionably this is Law’s movie and the film lives and dies on his performance. Director Kevin Mcdonald (of “Last King of Scotland” fame) has teased out an excellent turn from Law. His initial first few sentences take some getting used to, with a heavy plausible Scottish accent you might not be expecting.
The practicalities and petty jealousies of confined living are plausibly portrayed, part of the crew and all controls are Russian. With only one interpreter on-board, one might guess this represents a single point of failure for the group.
The youngster “Tobin” (Bobby Schofield) endures the usual navy jokes, he is detailed to clean the windows and the like. The lad is also used as a useful character, essentially channelling everyone’s desire to survive, he is young, relatively innocent and not as messed up as most of the crew.
Law puts in a spirited turn, both commanding, believable and ultimately edging nearer to madness as the pressure, from all sides takes it’s toll. The film moves from plausible to implausible at an easy pace but overall retains an even tone of movie realism.
After all the drama, it’s difficult to work out a way the film can end but director Mcdonald finds a satisfactory conclusion to the story. A movie that failed to find any audience which is a shame, as this is a good story with a fine central performance from Law, assisted by the character actors.
Submarine movies can crank up the claustrophobic tension and this is no exception.
Whilst not perfect, the film largely avoids many of the well worn underwater clichés and is well worth a watch.