Sunday, 2 October 2016

#67 DEEPWATER HORIZON


Starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson. Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand. Directed by Peter Berg. Budget $156 million. Running time 107 minutes.

Based on a New york Times account of the world's biggest environmental disaster, Deepwater Horizon is the story of that disaster as told from the perspective of Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), an engineer onboard the rig, Jimmy 'Mr. Jimmy' Harrell (Kurt Russell), the oil rig manager,  Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) pilot of the doomed rig and Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) as the BP executive who ignored safety warning in the name of greed and pleasing his corporate masters.

The subsequent catastrophic blowout on board the semi-submersible drilling platform, Deepwater Horizon lead to a deep-sea oil leak that flowed for 87 days, releasing approximately 4.9 million (or a 130 million gallons) barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and took five months to finally cap. It cost the lives of 11 workers, whose bodies were never recovered, and resulted in BP paying over $54 billion in environmental and economic damages and penalties! And guess what, not a single BP executive, especially Vidrine was ever charged, although a couple of low level executives were sacrificed to appease the media, but not the relatives of those 11 men who died.

The film sets the scene by introducing our main characters and making them seem like ordinary men and women with home lives and families before dropping them on the oil rig just 12 hours before the disaster. From the word go though it's obvious that all is not good on the rig. It's in desperate need of a serious overhaul, there's a list of hundreds of problems that need fixing and the rig is 54 days late in completing its mission. Meanwhile behind the scenes Mr. Jimmy is battling the BP suits over safety concerns. It's a slow build up, mirroring the building pressure of oil, silt and gas deep beneath the ocean floor building to the 'final' safety check that sees all hell break loose as the rig is ripped apart by the most cataclysmic fireball you've ever seen!

After that it's a mad, frantic dash through the slowly melting and sinking rig as the survivors fight to survive and be rescued. Before the truly tragic photo montage of the men who lost their lives and the depressing final trawl explaining what happened, or didn't happen next.

This is unlike most disaster films, being that it's based on a real life disaster. The cast is surprisingly good, particularly Walhberg who doesn't grandstand the role and Russell who is simply superb as Mr. Jimmy, oh how you long for him to don that iconic eyepatch one last time. Indeed I kept thinking you could imagine a disaster film where Snake escapes one last time from the world as it finally explodes in a huge fireball.

But I digress. This was a powerful and intense film, marred by mumbled dialogue which meant that for most of the film you don't really know what's going on. It's carried by some truly terrifying special effects and believable and honest acting from the cast. This is well directed by Peter Berg, who for the most part ignores the hateful practice of shaky cam. I found sitting four rows from the front helped greatly, immersing you very directly into the action.

And talking of Peter Berg, this is his second disaster movie, the first being Battleships in 2012 which was a disaster for a whole different reason.

Unfortunately though, the film, is nearly all build up because once the explosion happens the survivors, as in real life, only objective is to get off that rig PDQ! There's no time for sequences of heroic problem solving, like doing the monkey bars over a sea of fire, or hanging from the outside of an elevator dangling from a helicopter, because that didn't happen. Instead, there's just some very frightened, blackened faced individuals trying their damnedest not to die all set against the extra-ordinary sight of an oil rig fire.

So for most of the film's very brief, for this sort of film, running time of 107 minutes we get to witness the mundane, lives of the rig's crew and the day-to-day running of the rig. But this is also one of the film's major fascinations, we the audience know that shit is about to get real, and you find yourself watching as the men go about their jobs with a certain lazy routine and you find yourself thinking, 'No! Don't do that, take more consideration! No, don't look down that pipe! Or no, for god's sake don't light that cigerette!' type of thing.

Malkovich as the baddy is also worth the ticket price as he chews up the role giving us a particularly unpleasant and slimy executive who lives to see the result of his actions.

Sadly, the fact that this is a true story makes this a much harder film to thoroughly enjoy as, let's say if it had been pure fantasy from the Roland Emmerich school of disaster movies, here you're all too aware that these are real people and as such their lives cost far more than a group of stereotypes emoting at the end of the world.

This was a dramatic, terrifying and solid, if too brief, 8/10.



 

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