“Deepwater Horizon”: a riveting look at the people who tried to stop a disaster

deepwater-horizon-poster

Nutshell: A riveting look at a devastating disaster, with performances that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats. You don’t need to need to understand all the techspeak, but it’s cool to hear it. Bonus: the story of the brave men and woman who tried to stop the inevitable doesn’t let BP off easy. Grade: A-

“My crew lives on this rig.  You just rent it.”

Story: Workers on the “ultra-deepwater” offshore drilling rig the Deepwater Horizon try to prevent catastrophe, and then stay alive, after high-ups from DH lessee BP pushed for dangerous drilling, bypassing and/or ignoring tests.  11 died in the explosion and aftermath, and oil flowed for 87 days (considered the largest “accidental” marine oil spill in history.) Over 8 thousand separate marine life species were affected, with consequences that still affect marine life in the area today. GODDAMMIT.

Genre I’d put it in: Disaster Movie Biopic

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Orignal: Based on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  AKA “The BP Oil Spill That Covered All Those Poor Sea Birds, Animals, and Fish In Oil”.

Gotta say: If you haven’t gotten the drift from the earlier pieces of this review, I’m still MEGA PISSED that the BP Oil Spill happened.  It was something that could have been prevented, and goddammit, dolphins are still being born stillborn, or just flat out dying, whale sharks losing a critical habitat (and also, dying), and I’ll never fucking buy BP gas ever aga…

Ahem.  Okay.  The movie. This film did the impossible; it got me to get off of my Pissed Off Horse Of Righteous Anger, and focus on the men and woman (yes, just the one, dear) who crewed the Deepwater Horizon and did their best to save each other, as well as the Gulf, from a horrible disaster.  That’s thanks to director Peter Berg, whose deft touch with balancing action and emotion keeps things moving and moving.

A talented cast led by Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez and Kurt Russell bring the day-to-day lives of these workers into sharp focus, and we get a chance to care about them before everything goes sideways.  Other cast members like David Maldonado, Dylan O’Brien, Douglas M. Griffin and many more all come together nicely.  It’s a finely tuned ensemble cast, and there’s not a phoned in performance in the lot.  Not too shabby, as it’s a pretty damn big cast.

And of course John Malkovich and Brad Leland, who have the thankless job of bringing real-life BP baddies Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza to life, are boo-hiss bad without going off the rails.  You know these characters are just in it for the money, and these actors really pull out the slow boil with their wickedly good performances.  As Vidrine and Kaluza press the crew to drill even though there are questions with the pre-drilling tests, the Bad Idea vapor hangs heavy.  But they press on, slick as you please.  It’s always wonderful to see Malkovich dig in, but I particularly love him when he’s all Dangerous Liaisons.

Top-notch visual and sound editing give an immediacy to this biopic.  So do the visual and special makeup FX.  Seeing Kurt Russel’s “Captain Jimmy” covered in shards of glass, with a chunk embedded in his leg, after the explosion?  I tip my hat to the entire VFX and SFX crew.  And I won’t even start on the explosions.  Okay; I’m betting Michael Bay wets his pants in jealousy when he sees ’em.  And the dialogue sounds true-to-life.  Which means I understood about 5% of what the crew was talking about when running tests and discussing the status of the rig.  But I just stared at the screen in wonder and let all that fancy talkin’ flow over me.  I figured it’d all make sense sooner or later.  And it did.

If you’re like me, and are still controlling your fist-of-death about this horrible disaster and the devastation it caused?  You may not think you’d like this film.  But it’s a damn fine look at what happened before things came crashing down, and a lovely tribute to those who did everything – for some even giving their lives – to try to save others.  Plus, it’s an amazing disaster movie.  Hey, if I could be pulled out of my harumph and into this film?  That’s freakin’ art, baby.

#Protip: After the survivors of the explosion are rescued and make it to a hotel to rest and re-connect with family, a huge guy comes up to Mark Wahlberg’s Mike Williams, demanding information on his son.  That’s country singer Trace Adkins.  Man, he’s a big’un.

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