BLACK SEA REVIEW

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Like the submarine, it’s dark, too long and rusty in all the wrong places.

I didn’t want the cast to walk the plank. Just the writer.

Jude Law was fantastic. I’ve always rated him as an actor. He plays the gruffly Scot Captain Robinson well. His accent was very good and he delivers enough charisma to hold his own against a talented cast of misfits.

So what’s it about? In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain (Law) takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a submarine rumoured to be loaded with gold.

The running length was far too long. It’s gritty, at times claustrophobic and suspenseful but to be honest if it wasn’t for Law and Mendelsohn, I fear this film would have sunk faster than its naval counterpart.

The opening was painfully slow. Law did his best to keep things watchable and we feel for his character after being made redundant.

However, a plan is already in motion. A dangerous heist that could pay out big. 82 million to each participant.

Yes, that’s right. Nazi gold just sitting in a shipwreck. A shipwreck that happens to lie in the darkest, deepest regions of the ocean. Easy.

The set up was terrible. Forcing relationships between ship mates to make them more relatable.

The cliched exchanges between Konstantin Khabenskiy (Night Watch), Daniel Ryan (Mount Pleasant) and Law were so boring and unnecessary.

It felt hammy and drawn out. Writer Dennis Kelly tried to pump some life into the characters but it just didn’t work.

If Daniel Ryan’s character wasn’t so pessimistic and had that “I don’t think I can do this” expression smacked all over his face, I might have been surprised that he would turn out not to be in the rest of the film.

Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones) had the easiest job going as the “shadowy businessman”. I mean, come on. Look at him. He’s look like a shady politician. Throw in a scowl and he’s done.

Five minutes of empty threats and predictable guff about failing to deliver and that’s goodbye from him.

Instead, we get a wimpering Scoot McNairy (Monsters). Don’t get me wrong, he plays it well. He was just irritating. Forced by Mr Shady (no, not Eminem) to protect his investment and join the crew.

Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) was reduced to nothing more than featuring in some dreary dream sequences or being stalked by Law. Nothing was really made of their relationship at all. A missed opportunity that her character just as redundant as her husband.

Once they got into the sub, things got a little more interesting. Just.

Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) captured the claustrophobic setting of the submarine perfectly.

Robinson’s runts featured the likes of David Threlfall (Shameless), Michael Smiley (He will always be Tyres from Spaced) and the legendary Ben Mendelsohn (Starred Up).

The inevitable friction already brewing between the crew before they even descended.

Mendelsohn was superb as the volatile Fraser. The perfect catalyst to get things going. A ticking time bomb.

The predictable bust up looming in the cards still managed to surprise me.

I expected a little punch up BUT what happened instead was the much needed oomph I was craving for.

And for another 20 minutes or so, I got into the film.

Unfortunately the film has only really has a few moments of brilliance. The sequence in which they are evading other submarines and transporting the gold was suspenseful enough. It was tense, and watchable.

Wondering whom the ocean would take next into the dark abyss.

BUT what didn’t help was that the murky darkness was surprisingly too dark to see anything. If not for Law’s commentary, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were doing.

Grigoriy Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man) was highly unmemorable. I kept hoping he would do something. Bar the final three minutes, I would have said he was completely useless. Silently stewing in the background while fondling his beard.

Bobby Schofield didn’t do too a bad job as he took his first proper feature role as the young outcast Tobin.

His introduction helped provide a little more depth to the crew and eased up this incredibly droll and all too serious affair.

The crew banter was quite good. A naive Tobin standing with a squeegee and bucket asking, “Where are the windows?”.

However, the whole father/son vibe between him and Robinson’s Law was a little cheesy. BUT you just about routed for them.

The pace and story just didn’t justify the 114 minute running time. Not enough going on.

It didn’t help that the explosive finale got things going again and then just ended. Abruptly and predictably.

Shame.

It wasn’t all bad but it wasn’t that great either.

2/5

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EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS REVIEW

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton

Exoduzzzzz. Basically the Dark Prince of Egypt. No singing, a whole lot darker and a whole lot longer.  A mess. A beautifully shot one but a mess all the same.

So what’s it all about? (For those who don’t know) The defiant leader Moses (Christian Bale) rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.

Another example of the ever-increasing decline of a great director.

Beautifully shot (with a talented cast) BUT overlong, drawn out and dreadfully dull. The Counsellor, Prometheus and now Exodus.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to take on the role of Moses. Bale brings his gruffly angry gravitas to the role BUT despite his best efforts, his performance was a little underwhelming.

I understand that there has been a backlash against this movie. To be honest, I gave up on Hollywood attempting any accuracy or authenticity on anything. Let alone the Bible.

Apparently, self-tanning solves the whitewashing issue that Hollywood have failed to resolve for the last 50 years.

Bale and Edgerton worked well together and made a good pairing when they got to be in the same scene. Edgerton (Warrior) was an excellent Ramses when he was allowed to act. Can you see where I’m going with this?

The first 30 minutes zipped along and was quite watchable. The scope and design was breathtaking. Captured perfectly by (regular Scott stalwart) Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography.

This time around, Moses is not just an Egyptian prince but a general trained in the art of war. Cue biblical battle sequences . . . for five minutes. The little action we got was delivered through tragically jittery camera work. My eyes struggled to adjust to the 3D and the huge numbers of extras. I couldn’t focus on any one set piece.

The 3D is a waste of time. Apart from a few arrows and blades flying here and there and seeing some teeny tiny seagulls soar above the waves, it barely appears in the 150 minutes and doesn’t justify the extra costs.

The battle sequence soon corrected itself but after that . . . Nothing. We are left with mindless exposition, delivered by stocky characters for another hour and a bit.

John Turturro was probably one of the main supporting characters that made an impression as Egyptian pharaoh Seti.

BUT that was mainly because I thought it was a bit strange that he would play the father figure. He didn’t look any older than the pair. However, I Googled Turturro and discovered he is actually 17 years older than them I don’t normally go on continuity quips but the lumbering pace gave me time to do some research.

Ben Mendelsohn stood out for me more. I couldn’t believe it was him after all the hard man roles in Starred Up and Black Sea. He was very good as the weasly and overtly camp Viceroy Hegep.

Sigourney Weaver, on the other hand, was wasted in her role. She brought her stone faced pallor to the character and maybe had one bitchy moment but apart from that, anyone could have played her! Shame.

As Moses inevitably found out the truth about his upbringing and is exiled for it rather hastily; the film withers away as did my interest.

Agonisingly slow. I really felt like I was stranded in a desert. Waiting for a decent character. A bit of plot. Something. Instead I have Moses wandering about. Slaying a random person here and there (For no reason). Marrying the lovely Maria Valverde. Promising not to leave her. Leaving her to free “his people”. After talking to a burning bush. Come again?

I’m not going to pick at the biblical story too much. The bush always did test me BUT then to have the messenger of God appear in the form of an 11 year old boy named Malak (Isaac Andrews) took the biscuit.

Moses’ conversations with Malak should have been dramatic affairs. Heated debates questioning the morals and ethics behind God’s plan to liberate the slaves. BUT all I got was Batman yelling angrily at a little boy for 20 minutes.

Andrews did his best but he seemed to struggle with some of the bigger chunks of dialogue and didn’t really have the conviction to carry it.

It didn’t help that only Moses can see Malak. So every time Aaron Paul’s Joshua checked on Moses, he could only see Bale losing his rag at a rock. That’s right, Jessie from Breaking Bad. Such a bland character. He nailed the confused slave look well. It was comical.

The plagues certainly got things moving. The visual effects were incredible, especially with the locusts, frogs and crocodiles. Wait, what?

Crocodiles. You read that, right? I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the bible. It was certainly a visceral and dark moment. The carnage was relentless. The Nile turning into one blood soaked pool. Haunting.

Indira Varma (Game of Thrones) and Ewan Bremner (Trainspotting) played the High Priestess and Expert as well as they could. The fact their characters are given such wonderful titles said it all.

Their theorizing about what made the plagues happen was interesting at first BUT got irritating in an instant.

I felt that Scott (and the cast) went through the motions with the story. I mean at least Darren Aronofsky tried to do something different with Noah. Granted, it didn’t really work and did cause a bit of a stir but it was certainly more interesting than this.

I mean between Bale and Scott, they made Moses appear like a schizophrenic. Talking to inanimate objects one second. Flying off the handle the next. What made me laugh is that the slaves constantly question his leadership and yet when the shit hits the fan, they are screaming for Moses to tell them what to do.

The pace could have been cut down by an hour and been stronger for it. It hasn’t added anything new to the story or re-imagined it in any capacity. Scott didn’t even bother showing Moses unveil the Ten Commandments after all the build up.

The parting of the Red Sea was a visual feast for the eyes. A frenetic finish to a flawed flop.

If there was to be a re-telling of a Bible story, why didn’t Hollywood take on a story that hadn’t had numerous films before it? Numerous films that were much, much better.

God have mercy on this film. The special effects and set pieces were breathtaking but the lifeless characters and mechanical story telling left me yawning.

2.5/5