Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Deepwater Horizon (2016)

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“Full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing” could be a summary of this modern-age disaster movie.  In 2010 the “Deepwater Horizon” drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana failed in spectacular fashion, bursting into flames and spewing millions of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico in what was the worst oil-spill in American history. Mark Wahlberg plays the well-respected electrical ‘Mr fixit’ Mike Williams on the rig, reporting to the Operations Manager Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell). 

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Mark Wahlberg in grimy action mode… make up just said “Go change the oil in my car will ya Mark?”

The exploratory project is way-behind and BP are not happy. Big-wigs from the company add support to Donald Vidrine, the BP site leader, in applying mounting pressure on Harrell to press on regardless without all the necessary and time-consuming tests by Schlumberger being completed. Rogue numbers in further tests are waved away as ‘glitches’. A familiar story of corporate greed and pressure overriding the expert’s better judgment.

When disaster strikes it strikes quickly, with some spectacular and exciting special effects that leave the audience especially hot under the collar. Female support is provided by the comely Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), given the almost impossible job of keeping the floating bomb on station as chaos reigns about her. As an audience we are back on familiar ground here from classic Irwin Allen disaster movies such as “The Towering Inferno” and “The Poseidon Adventure”. Who will make it, and who won’t?

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Gina Rodriguez as the girl with the job of keeping the damn thing still.

A more telling question here is “Do we care?” and unfortunately for the film, the answer is “Not really”. This feels a callous thing to say when this was a real and recent event and eleven people and – as touchingly illustrated at the end of the film in tribute – many of them family men with young kids, never went home again. But film-wise, we only really get bought into the fate of Williams, whose back-story, with cute wife (Kate Hudson) and cute daughter (Stella Allen) we get to meet and sympathize with. 

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Kate Hudson, desperate for information.

We get a minimalist view of Fleytas’s backstory, but only enough to provide a recurring “Mustang” reference.  And that’s it.  All the other characters are just two-dimensional “rig crew”: cannon-fodder for the special effects team. The screenplay by Matthew Sand and Matthew Carnahan really doesn’t deliver enough heft to get us bought in.

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Uh oh – that doesn’t look good.

While the special effects are good, the sound design isn’t, with much of the dialogue being incomprehensible.
 
All the acting is fine, with the ever-watchable John Malkovich nicely portraying the corporate head you love to hate. Wahlberg as well delivers enough range to make you forget in this “action mode” that he was also in “Ted”. And Rodriguez as a junior lead holds her own against the big guns in what is a creditable performance in a big film role for her.  

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For those in peril on the sea…

While “Lone Survivor”/”Battleship” director Peter Berg neatly provides an insight into life on and around rigs, and (via subtitles) descriptions of the drilling process which I found interesting, this comes down to the sum of a tense build up, an hour of frenetic disaster, and then a whimper of an ending. Where were some of the dramatic scenes of conflict in the congressional hearing that the film’s opening implies might come?  Where are the scenes of ecological disaster and local financial ruin to add emotional angles to the story?  None of this is really exploited and the whole concoction comes across a bit “meh” as a result.  Not a bad film by any means.  But not one I will remember in a month or two’s time.
 
Fad Rating:  FFF.

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