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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon is a good, if low-aiming, flick that offers a nice long tease before delivering solid action until the climax. To my relief, it also suggests the BP and it's employees were fully responsible for the disaster in 2010 that killed 11 crewmen and led to the largest oil spill in world history.

The focal point of the story is Mark Walhberg as a crew member of the titular rig. What I knew about oil drilling could have filled a thimble and left plenty of room, so there's a lot of technical jargon to try and process. They seem to have a three-week-on, and then a long time off, as they live on the rig. He arrives along with the boss, called Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell, enjoyingly gruff). But they don't work for BP, they work for Transocean, who drills the hole and finds the oil so BP can come take it away.

The film's structure is a bit like Titanic, but without the romance. BP's head man, a charmingly oily John Malkovich, wants to get things moving, as they are behind schedule. Russell thinks the cement needs testing. They run a test that's inconclusive, so Malkovich orders the flow to start. At least I think that's what happened. The script is highly detailed with the kind of things most of us need never know about.

Of course Malkovich is wrong, Russell was right, and mud and oil starts shooting into the rig. This happens about an hour into the film, so at least the wait was worth it, as for the rest of the film considerable damage will be done, especially when the oil catches fire. Wahlberg and Russell attempt to rescue everyone using lifeboats. A scene that is very reminiscent of Titanic is when Malkovich, covered in mud and oil and in a lifeboat, silently escapes while some of his men will die because of his foolishness.

Clearly BP had no say in the making of this film, as they are the almost cartoon villains. Wahlberg and Russell make good heroes, and even the perfunctory scenes of Wahlberg's wife (Kate Hudson) waiting worriedly at home are tolerable. Usually these kind of roles (like Laura Linney in Sully) are thankless, but Hudson makes hers work a little more.

The film was directed by Peter Berg, who usually makes dreck, but I give Deepwater Horizon a thumbs-up. It certainly makes for a good Friday-night rental. It was nominated for two Oscars: Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects. There were no extras on the DVD, but I'd love to know how they recreated the burning rig because it looks exactly like a burning rig--did they actually build one and burn it up?


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