Sunday, October 30, 2016

Deepwater Horizon

3.5/4

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Dylan O'Brien

Rated PG-13 for Prolonged Intense Disaster Sequences and Related Disturbing Images

"Deepwater Horizon" is a disaster movie, plain and simple.  It follows the established formula down to the T.  This isn't a criticism, simply a fact.  What makes it work is that Peter Berg is a gifted filmmaker and has generated strong performances from his cast.  Simply put, this movie works because it does exactly what it sets out to do.

Mike Williams (Walhberg) is saying goodbye to his wife Felicia (Hudson) and daughter before he goes on his regular trip to work on the oil rig Deepwater Horizon.  Things are suspicious when he arrives; the team assigned to test the concrete on the drill site has left without doing anything, almost nothing works or is in need or repair, and there are two executives from BP trying to hurry progress.  The most trusted man on board, Mr. Jimmy (Russell), puts his foot down and insists on another test.  The results set off alarm bells, but one of the executives, a man named Vidrine (Malkovich), finds another possibility (probably not because he believes it, but because he doesn't care).  Of course, we all know that he was wrong.  The Deepwater Horizon had far too much pressure in an unstable cap and it exploded, killing 11 people and costing billions in clean-up.

As you can imagine, this isn't an actors' show.  This is all about tension build-up and disaster spectacle.  But there are a few good performances to be found here.  Mark Wahlberg is his usual reliable self.  Kurt Russell hasn't been this good in years.  Ditto for Kate Hudson, although her role is essentially superfluous.  And no one plays a sleazeball like John Malkovich.  The actor delights in playing deranged, villainous characters, and this is one of the dirtiest he's ever put to film.  Special mention has to go to Dylan O'Brien, who does a lot with a tiny role.

The problem with the film is its length.  It's too short.  In a movie like this pacing is key, but it feels rushed.  The set-up needs to be drawn out to increase the tension.  Also, this time would be well spent introducing us to the minor characters, further involving us.  An hour and forty-seven minutes simply isn't enough time for a film like this to work.

Make no mistake, what is on screen is tremendous.  The special effects are outstanding (a new oil rig was built specifically for this movie).  The action is exciting and scary and tragic.  I just wish there was more.

This is a movie that deserves to be seen on as big a screen as possible, which is why I was disappointed that I didn't get the chance to see it in IMAX (I tried but was late to a showing).  It's that kind of a movie.  But, like the best epics such as "In the Heart of the Sea" or "Titanic," it's strong enough that I think it will play just as well on your hi-def TV.

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