Deepwater Horizon (2016) ☆ ☆ ☆

The 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig led to the worst oil spill in U. S. history; it was in the news for months, with consequences that are still being felt in the Gulf Region.  While it was a terrible accident and environmental catastrophe, one which cost eleven lives, it sure seemed like criminal negligence at the time.  This new film, simply titled Deepwater Horizon, explains and explores how the accident took place, and does nothing to dispel the notion that BP executives’ greed and unrelenting pressure to keep the unsafe well drilling led to calamity.

Peter Berg’s film follows three main riggers as they make their way to the rig for a three-week shift: electrical engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), operational officer Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and navigational officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez).  When they arrive on the rig, Williams and “Mr. Jimmy” quickly learn that safety procedures are being undermined because the drilling is forty-three days behind schedule.  But their worries are countered by the executives, who insist that drilling recommence as quickly as possible.

The first part of the story delves deep into the operations of the rig, which I found fascinating, all bound up in the knowledge that the rig is doomed.  Finally, because of circumstances that led the executives to feel they still had control, the blow-out occurs and all hell breaks loose.  From then on the movie goes into survival mode, and becomes much more conventional.

Sturdy character work by all involved and constant dread maintained by the director provide a tense, gripping experience.  It is uplifting in the face of fiery horror and certain death, as the men and women on the doomed rig battle to survive.  The aftermath is briefly shown, as the survivors have a chance to consider what they experienced, and it is very powerful.  All in all Deepwater Horizon is a thoughtful disaster film, sharing the same approach as the brilliant Apollo 13, delivering a thorough behind-the-scenes examination of an event broadcast on a global stage.  This is not a great film, but it is a good one, well worth seeing.  ☆ ☆ ☆.  8 October 2016.

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