Commentaries

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DEEPWATER HORIZON



STARS HELP DISASTER FILM

Film Review by Fiore 


Disaster films generally follow a tried and true template: Audiences are introduced to a sampling of characters; the nasty people die in the ordeal; the good people live, but go through hell.  It is important the characters embody stereotypical mores so audience identification can occur quickly and the special effects guys can dominate the film.

Deepwater Horizon follows the template, for the most part.  We are introduced to Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his family.  He is the common, everyday man, working for a living and trying to provide for his family.  He embodies old fashioned values and a traditional family unit, unlike so many of today’s leading characters.  Jimmy “Mister Jimmy” Harrell is the foreman, the kind of boss you want to work for; constantly thinking of the welfare and safety of his crew.  He is played, in most excellent fashion, by Kurt Russell.  And then there is the big corporation greedy antagonist, who is the root of the disaster.  In Deepwater Horizon, it’s BP Oil executive Donald Vindrine, played by John Malkovich.  In smaller roles are Kate Hudson and Gina Rodriguez.

This is a powerhouse line-up of stars.  Realize in a disaster film, the true star is always the disaster, recreated by the SFX techs.  In Deepwater Horizon, they are in superb form.  The destruction of the oil rig and the rescue operations dominate the screen, even with Cinematographer Enrique Chediak using the shaky, reality camera style I so despise.

But when things are not blowing up or flooding, the stars must carry the action, and the trio of Russell, Wahlberg and Malkovich fill those gaps with aplomb.  Though I must admit it was a little disappointing when Malkovich did not yell: “I’m getting the pig!” while wallowing in a sea of mud.

KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE SHOWER DISASTER
2.      THE HOTEL REUNION
3.      THE MUD ROOM

I, like most of the folk in the preview audience, know little about oil drilling in the ocean; however, background information is required to comprehend the origins of the disaster.  Screenwriter Mathew Michael Carnahan (one of the dreaded three name people of Hollywood), executes an exemplary enterprise of bringing viewers up to speed with terse dialogue between the main stars.  In short time, we are aware of what must be done, and what is not being done.  The stars combine the dialogue with corresponding expressions so there is no doubt when the mud begins to seep through the couplings, something is seriously wrong. Carnahan's script is not so effective when attempting Eisensteinian commentary.

The BP Oil spill is the worst such accident in history.  The effects of the rig’s destruction impacted the environment for years afterwards. That said, Director Peter Berg could not resist tossing in visual editorials.  When the rig is on the verge of collapsing, a shot of an injured man staring at the American flag above a scene of smoke, fire and chaos, is meant to drive home the concept of evil American capitalistic greed.  It will stir the liberal heart, but it is a misnomer.  BP is not an American company; it is British.  While the managers overseeing the disaster were American employees, they were not in decision making positions.  Those were made by the board back in England.  It was a nice try, but it will certainly work on only the feeblest minded.

Since Deepwater Horizon is ‘based on true events’ the film doesn’t follow the true template of disaster films.  It strays in that several of the scoundrels do not die, but rather live long and prosper (see current Wells Fargo inquiry as evidence); but other than this one aberration, Deepwater Horizon holds true.

To his credit, Berg could have launched this film into an environmental nocturnal emission, but exercised restraint.  The only nod to the biohazard Deepwater Horizon caused is a scene, effectively done, with an oil soaked sea gull, flying into the bridge of the rescue ship.  It effectively makes its point, without ingratiating the Occupy Wallstreet irrationals. 

Like Sully, Deepwater Horizon excels in the panoramic shots of the rig and rescue.  Seeing the film in IMAX carries more dramatic impact than not.  The stars all shine, especially Kurt Russell, and the film largely follows the established disaster prototype.  You know what to expect going into the theatre, and the movie does not disappoint.






THE GRADE FOR DEEPWATER HORIZON = B

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