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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 2 years ago

Film review: 'Deepwater Horizon'

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Peter Berg's harrowing film focuses on the lives affected by the disaster, rather than its environmental effects.

"Deepwater Horizon" is a film about what can happen when corporations value profit over safety. Director Peter Berg spotlights the crew and lives lost, rather than the environmental disaster created when the drilling rig exploded in 2010. And it's a harrowing account.

As the film opens, we hear anonymous testimony suddenly come to a halt when the individual is asked, "Why didn't you hear the alarm?" The lack of an answer triggers just what occurred prior to the horrific event. 

It seems that BP (British Petroleum) is livid about the rig being 43 days behind delivering oil. In response, they've sent evil personified in the form of Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) to get things cracking. But chief engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and crew Captain Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) fear that the drilling well is unstable. Guess who's calling the shots?

The safety shortcuts result in the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history and the tragic loss of 11 lives. Berg's pacing is slow and methodical up until the execution of the explosion. He actually had an oil rig built just for "Deepwater Horizon," rumored to be the largest set piece ever constructed. As the blazing rig is caught against the pitch black sky and mayhem ensues, prepare for severe heart-pounding. The visual impact is staggering. 

The heroes and villains are well casted in this intense action thriller. Wahlberg always feels genuine in the roles he tackles, and his courageous concern for fellow crew members rings immensely true as Mike Williams. Malkovich reigns supreme when playing sinister, especially covered in crude. And Kurt Russell, well, he just gets better with age.

Berg doesn't play politics in "Deepwater Horizon." He leaves that to be discerned by his audience. The father of Keith Jones, one of the crew members who perished, observed that the catastrophe was "negligence based entirely on greed." 130 million gallons of oil leaked for 87 days into the Gulf of Mexico. Federal prosecutors brought manslaughter charges against BP rig supervisors Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza. They were later dropped. Frankly, it comes as no surprise.   

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