Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon

HK Magazine - - FILM -

The 2010 Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon dis­as­ter was the worst in the history of the pe­tro­leum in­dus­try. Eleven peo­ple were killed and 210 mil­lion gal­lons of oil were dumped into the Gulf of Mex­ico over 87 days. So, hey, let’s make a movie about it with lots of ex­plo­sions and Marky Mark! But Peter Berg’s movie is pure dis­as­ter porn, and as such it works well on al­most ev­ery level.

Mark Wahlberg plays Mike Wil­liams, chief elec­tron­ics tech­ni­cian on the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon, a high-tech mo­bile oil rig. The rig is run by Jimmy Har­rell, known uni­ver­sally as “Mr. Jimmy” (Kurt Rus­sell), who’s ex­actly the kind of no-non­sense guy you’d want to have run­ning your mas­sive piece of equip­ment. Th­ese two are your hon­est em­ploy­ees, just try­ing to make a buck and do the right thing in a greedy, cor­po­rate world. But evil lurks in the shape of a few big bad BP oil ex­ec­u­tives, par­tic­u­larly Don­ald Vidrine (a hammy-as-ever John Malkovich), who are all about profit as their pri­mary mo­tive. They’re be­hind sched­ule, and if that means skip­ping a test or two, en­dan­ger­ing a life or 11—well, so be it.

As history shows, it doesn’t turn out well. After over­look­ing a test, the sys­tems around the pipe fail and oil gey­sers into the air, with fumes soon ig­nit­ing the station. Cue huge ex­plo­sions and op­por­tu­ni­ties for hero­ism and cow­ardice all round.

“Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon” is ba­si­cally “Juras­sic Park” without the di­nosaurs. The rich un­think­ingly build a mas­sive mon­u­ment to hu­man in­ge­nu­ity, na­ture finds a way to fight back, hero must work to get ev­ery­one out alive. With ex­plo­sions.

Wahlberg is his usual ca­pa­ble self, not so much act­ing as gri­mac­ing his way through the movie with suit­able ev­ery­man aplomb. Kurt Rus­sell is nat­u­ral­is­tic and like­able, while Malkovich proves that the Ov­erenu­ci­ate, Over­state and Over­act school of per­for­mance has its place—es­pe­cially when he’s stag­ger­ing across a rig cov­ered in murky oil, blinded by his greed. And oil.

But the ex­tra­or­di­nary thing is that this all hap­pened just six years ago. We’re fed images of tragic hero­ism as the mu­sic swells and an Amer­i­can flag flut­ters into shot, and sure, it feels good. But is it, per­haps, too soon? Too op­por­tunis­tic?

To make an au­di­ence care, a film needs strong char­ac­ters—and the char­ac­ters of “Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon,” par­tic­u­larly those of Wahlberg and Rus­sell, achieve this.

But lit­tle em­pha­sis is given to the deeper, more en­dur­ing cost of the dis­as­ter. The cost we’re shown is hu­man, not en­vi­ron­men­tal—and it lessens the sig­nif­i­cance of the whole tragedy. Go for the ex­plo­sions, sure. Go for Marky Mark. But after­wards, go save a dol­phin, you ass. Adam White

Di­rected by Peter Berg. Star­ring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Rus­sell, John Malkovich. Cat­e­gory IIA.

108 min­utes. Opened Sep 29.

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