Thursday, 13 October 2016

Deepwater Horizon

Disaster movies are a genre of films that has been slightly lacking in recent years. While environment disaster movies like Deep Impact, The Day After Tomorrow and even last year's San Andreas are still incredibly popular, man-made disasters are rarer. I think that was part of the joy I had in watching Deepwater Horizon, because it seemed to breathe new life into a stale genre.

Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is the chief electrical engineer on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon. He is about to go for a three week stint aboard the rig and spends time with his family. Also going to the rig are Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and the boss Mr Jimmy (Kurt Russell). Things seem a bit strange when they get there to discover that the rig's BP bosses, including Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), are all over the place, putting pressure on the teams on the rig to drill a new oil well without the proper safety tests having been taken. And that can only lead to one thing, disaster.

Deepwater Horizon suffers from a couple of things. The process of offshore oil drilling is something that people study for years and years at a university to be able to do. There are countless numbers of complex machines that go into an oil rig (something Mark Wahlberg is constantly reminding us of). It's hard to boil it down into an action movie, which is weird because the movie does it, but still is complex. The start even has a child's view of the drilling process for all us dummies in the audience. To my understanding, a hole is drilled down into the oil well, a pump is down there and they bring up that black gold (I'm no expert so forgive me for my lack of knowledge, my education in this business comes from movies like There Will Be Blood). The ocean floor however needs to be reinforced with concrete however, because when drilling that hole it can lead to a blowout (which is what happened). Now I was getting to how this works against the film. When you have a whole bunch of characters with Louisiana accents talking about 'see-ment' tests, it can be a little confusing and these are integral details to the plot. The characters also like using idioms and metaphors to explain their work, like Mark Wahlberg's impassioned monologue comparing oil drilling to catfish noodling (which is a weirdly specific piece of cultural knowledge you have to have for that to make sense).

Now I was going to put this next point in with those negatives but it's a weirdly good thing. Once the action starts in this movie, it doesn't stop. Literally. We have about forty minutes of setting the scene to what causes the explosion and then the remaining time is dedicated to explosions. Normally these movies have time in which they slow down and take a breather, but not this one. Mark Wahlberg is constantly running around the oil rig, saving people or switching off things. Again, that's nothing we haven't seen before. But this time it's different. Fat Mark Wahlberg. You read that right, he's fat. Now that is something we've never seen before. Instead of playing his usual super buff gym owner or muscular scientist, he's playing a slightly overweight engineer with a sedentary job. So when it comes to his feats of strength, you can't help but root for the guy. Kurt Russell is no stranger to disaster movie having starred in Poseidon back in 2006, although this time there is no water from him to drown in. Throughout the movie he has a busted up eye which is definitely a call back to one of his iconic characters Snake Plissken.

Deepwater Horizon looks like it's going to be a trashy action flick, but it ends up being quite enjoyable. Despite it's overly technical jargon and shots of the American flag with fire burning around it (which is weird because the rig is owned by British Petroleum, but I'm sure you could write a whole essay about that flag in this movie), the movie is just fun. The non-stop action is something that even a director like Michael Bay would shy away from, but in the case of Deepwater Horizon in works perfectly.

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