Deepwater Horizon

These are the hardest reviews to write.  If I love a film, I can’t wait to put down rapturous if not purple prose about the glories of its excellence.  Likewise, if I hate a film, I can bring out my inner Dorothy Parker and delightfully rip it to shreds.  Most films fall close to one or the other pole, at least for me.  But there are some that wind up in the middle.  They are perfectly well made films with good performances that amuse me for an hour and a half but they are forgotten as soon as I walk out of the theater.  These films simply don’t plug into any emotions.

I suppose that, in and of itself, is a pretty serious criticism.

Mike Williams, played by Mark Wahlberg, works on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig that floats instead of being anchored to the sea floor.  That allows it to explore in water that is miles deep.  Its job is to find the oil, start a well and then move on to the next site.  Mike is a devoted family man and competent repair technician on the rig.  He’s also very much a working class figure who gets along with the roughnecks and everybody else on the crew.

This is based on a true story, so we know what happens next.  The oil from the well overwhelms the rig which catches fire, resulting in eleven deaths and the worst oil spill in American history.  There are some very exciting moments when things are exploding and stuff, but none of it really sticks with you.  The main reason is sensory overload.  In the second half of the movie, it’s dark, everybody’s covered in oil, and the soundtrack is so cluttered you can’t hear what they’re saying or even tell who they are.  And it doesn’t help that the filmmakers keep cutting from one scene to another.

The structure of this films is flawed.  The first half is build-up and foreshadowing and it drags.  The second half is the crew trying to get off the rig and it feels rushed.  Now I’m all for keeping action films in that hour and a half to two hour window, but they really should have taken more time during the actual crisis.

This is one you can definitely wait for.

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