Deepwater Horizon

“We’re a big company, made of millions of moving parts. We all work very hard to ensure those moving parts are functioning as a means to a very profitable win for all of us.”

One of the greatest legends to come out of Hollywood is that of Mark Wahlberg on the 11th September 2001. Wahlberg and a group of friends decided last minute that morning to change their travel plans – instead of flying from Boston to Los Angles they chartered a plane so they could go to a film festival in Toronto. The plane they had been due to fly on for their original journey would have been American Airlines Flight 11 – the plane that crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre. All passengers on that plane journey died – that last minute decision saved Wahlberg’s life. It’s that sense of fate & foreboding that haunts over ‘Deepwater Horizon‘. The threat of disaster and looming peril helps make it one of the best biopic disaster movies in years.

20 April 2010. Mike Williams (Wahlberg) has arrived back on the offshore oiling rig, Deepwater Horizon, that acts as his home for several weeks at a time whilst he is out earning his livelihood. His latest stint is due to be three weeks long – 21 long days away from his wife  Felicia (Hudson) and their ten-year-old daughter. Safety manager ‘Mr Jimmy’ (Russell) is incredibly concerned at the minimal safety protocol being followed, a decision made by BP executive Vidrine in an attempt to save money. Soon it will be fatefully proven that cutting corners financially will have a far greater cost.

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The primary reason that ‘Deepwater Horizon’ is so successful as a movie is that it lays its groundwork. It doesn’t rush to the main event – the explosion of the oil rig – instead it bides its time by simultaneously introducing and then developing characters we care about alongside showing the burgeoning disaster that is going on unbeknownst to them.It makes for a very effective juxtapostion. We truly care for the characters and wrestle with the inevitability that  hovers above them. We know what is going to happen, it happened in recent history after all, and yet we really really don’t want it to happen.

Much credit for this must go to the direction, script and cast. Devoting what must be about half the running time to set-up sounds risky and almost-unappealing yet ends up being well worth the antci.. pation.  The script allows for the characters to be given depth and characteristics beyond a job title and a face wearing a helmet. We may not have a clue about some of their conversation topics but we get the sense that they care about each other, they are a family, and we will shortly be watching them go through hell on earth. A workplace rapport (I’m loathe to use the term ‘banter’) is generated and exploited with ease and we truly route for their survival.

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Having gone in with low expectations about numerous factors – concern about an over reliance on special effects and the renowned ‘one acting style’ of Mark Wahlberg shared the number one spot. Thankfully both concerns were unfounded. The disaster itself is presented and shot in such a way that is truly terrifying; even the least empathetic amongst you will find yourself flinching at the various crashes/bangs.  Wahlberg ends up playing a really likeable and believable everyman; he ends up rather winning and understated as a man who proves himself capable of true bravery in the worst of odds.

With only a small enough dose of patriotism to still be bearable  ‘Deepwater Horizon‘ shows the worst oil spill is US history with pathos and well-meaning tribute. A reminder, were it needed, that it is the most ordinary of heroes who are often proven to be the most extraordinary.

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Dir:Peter Berg

Country: USA        Year: 2016               Run time: 107 minutes

Cast:Mark WahlbergKurt RussellDouglas M. GriffinGina RodriguezJohn MalkovichKate Hudson

 Deepwater Horizon opened in UK cinemas on September 30th.

 

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