Alright, everyone, I’m going to start this review with a statement that I never really thought I’d utter aloud, even if I was alone (ha, ha…. “if”……) – let alone to the whole Internet, who I’m assuming read this blog religiously. After all, one of my reviews got over 100 views. There can’t be many more people than that on the Internet. Don’t be ridiculous! Anyway, I’m stalling here because I sound really silly when I say this statement. I suppose I should get on with it, don’t have all day:
Anyway, yes, I did have a little man-cry at the end of the movie where Mark Wahlberg escapes an exploding oil rig. IT WAS VERY MOVING OK!
Now, for anyone who doesn’t know the story of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon (a true life story), I could summarize it with a different name – the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The coverage of that story was immense and if you haven’t seen the many photographs oil covered pelicans after that incident in 2010, I’d recommend moving to a new rock slightly closer to civilization. But this movie, in my mind, wisely chooses to focus its attention elsewhere. (After all, the environmental damage is something far more suited to be told in a documentary format).
The film centers around Mike Williams, one of the employees working onboard the Deepwater Horizon on the day that the rig exploded. Arriving on the rig to resume his work schedule, Williams and the rig’s boss Mr Jimmy soon find that a number of time saving measures had been implemented in their absence by BP company man Donald Vidrine. Over the course of a day on board, Mr Jimmy and Vidrine continually butt heads over safety procedures, with the end result being the explosion that destroyed the rig. From there, Williams sets about rescuing as many of his fellow crew as he can, while Mr Jimmy attempts to stem the fire as much as humanly possible.
It’s an oddly intimate film for the explosion filled premise, really. From the trailers of this film (which certainly didn’t interest me, at all), it looked like they’d turned this real life tragedy into a big action vehicle for Mark Wahlberg to run around in, being all Wahlberg-y while various patriotic tunes were played over American flag montages. But it was anything but. This movie, basically, is a horrific insight into exactly how terrifying it would be to find yourself on an exploding oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
And for that movie to work, the cast has to be pretty damn solid, and you have to care about these people. The film’s cast had one weak spot (Kate Hudson as Mike Williams’ wife Felicia), but even that performance was bearable, if a bit overdone. But the rest of the cast was great, with solid turns from rising stars Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner), and with a typically strong lead role from Mark Wahlberg of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch fame.
You can always expect something special from this young man
But the two stand out performances come from a couple of Hollywood veterans. Firstly, as Mr Jimmy, Kurt Russell is perfectly cast in the role. A gruff, but caring skipper aboard the rig, Russell perfectly portrays a man being beaten down by a company, but still fighting for the safety of his crew. His time to shine however, comes after the explosion where he coordinates a small group of the survivors in order to ensure that everyone got off the rig safely.
Before the explosion, the film is almost certainly stolen by John Malkovich, as BP company man Donald Vidrine. The role required someone whom the audience immediately distrusted and disliked, as this was the man who made all of the horrid decisions that led to the incident in the first place. Donald Trump apparently had other things to attend to during the shoot, so there was no one else they could have gotten but Malkovich. The veteran actor does what he does best in this film, and that’s portraying a manipulative, uncaring slimeball.
(It should be noted here that the real life Vidrine was acquitted of all charges relating to misconduct and manslaughter aboard the Deepwater Horizon in a federal court of law, and this review deals only with the character of Vidrine within the movie, and not the real life figure. I’ve not met him, he could very well be a nice caring guy. I don’t know.)
But these performances lead to a true life film that is sometimes incredibly difficult to watch. These actors created real people, who you care about, who are then subjected to a horrific tragedy. This is different to recent true story films like Sully, where the day was ultimately saved, or Snowden, where the consequences, while scary in their own right, didn’t feel real due to the incomprehensible scale. This film had victims, hardworking people just doing their job, and even the survivors were subjected to some nightmarish scenes. And that terror leaps out of the screen. It may lack the jump scares, but this might be 2016’s scariest movie.
To be fair, I am yet to see The Boy, so I can’t be definitive in that statement. That CGI kid sure does look keen for a jump scare.
Are there negative aspects to this film – yes. As I said, Kate Hudson’s “worried wife” character felt a bit misplaced at times, although the role did serve a purpose. But it was an overdone performance that wasn’t quite in step with the rest of the film. And some of the scenes were found in their entirety in The Little Book of Cliches. But those moments are few and far between, and are far outdone by the refreshing feel of the movie – a film that uses explosions as realistically as it can. Also, it made me cry, so, you know. Great film.
4.7/5 – An important film that I think most people should check out. Which is something I never thought I’d say about a film from the guy who directed Battleship.