Friday, 30 September 2016

Review: Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon
Cert: 12A / 108 mins / Dir. Peter Berg / Trailer

Look at that poster ^^ (there's a bigger version here, if you like). It may seem quite functional, but on a technical level it's far better than it first appears. Across the lower section of the poster, just above the title, are the words "Inspired by a true story of real life heroes". The legend takes up approximately 0.5% of visual real-estate, states its case clearly, but barely attempts to conceal the background image of 52,000 tonnes of steel which is exploding and on fire. And if there's ever been a movie poster which so accurately summarises its product, I've yet to see it.

Much like Peter Berg's previous true-story thriller starring Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg's latest true-story thriller starring Mark Wahlberg isn't inherently a Bad Film™ in itself. It just feels massively inappropriate given how recently the events in it took place and adds nothing to the tale above the needless pomp and glamorisation of a bonafide disaster. The first hour consists of the cast pointing at everything on the titular oil exploration-rig and saying "well that's an accident waiting to happen!", then the second hour consists of everything being on fire. Some people get off the rig, some people don't, that's about it. If this was a Roland Emmerich movie it might be a more forgivable state of affairs; the overall mawkishness is a given, but Berg's film feels borderline exploitative.

It's hard to know who's patronised more here, the cinema audience or the actual fatalities of the actual disaster who are reduced to a five-second photograph and name-caption before the closing credits roll (not that their screen-counterparts have any dialogue or constructive part to play). Central and supporting performances are solid enough for a middle-of-the-road Sunday night DVD*1, but Deepwater Horizon is anchored by a pedestrian screenplay that does no-one any favours, on or off-screen. The harder the film tries to remind you of its factual connections, the more gauche the whole thing seems.

And if you think all of this sounds like a very cynical attitude, I'll remind you that I'm not the one who looked at one of the worst industrial/environmental disasters in history, then turned it into what is essentially an action-movie starring Will Ferrell's straight-man*2.

If a studio really wanted to to celebrate the heroes and honour the victims of Deepwater Horizon, a documentary would have been a more appropriate vehicle...

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well, Everest and Lone Survivor.
Maybe even San Andreas.
Yeah. I went there

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you like watching shaky-cam explosions on a huge screen for an hour at a time, yes.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Oh, probably not...

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Kurt Russell's in this and he was in that Hateful Eight along with Sam 'Windu' Jackson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although, while Kate Hudson may not be the greatest performer of her generation, she's still better than the 'crying on the other end of the phone for 50% of the film's run-time' role she's been given here.

*2 Yes, the actor who wouldn't be allowed on an actual oil-rig because he's so wooden he's been classed as a fire-hazard. The actor who somehow managed to make 40-ft high robot beating the crap out of each other appear boring. The actor whose most well-received role was arguably opposite a swearing, farting, animated bear. I can't pretend this didn't colour my view of the movie from the first time I saw the trailer…

*3 Oh, and while I'm on, that BP-exec's tie isn't "magenta" as mumbled by Kurt Russell in an early scene, it's fucking purple. Magenta is magenta. The tie is purple. This point is especially underlined later when we see the magenta-alert onboard the oil-rig, and it's shown to be fucking magenta. Not fucking purple. And considering this is mentioned because 'the guys on the rig are superstitious', presumably that level of supernatural caution doesn't extend so far as not working with a shitload of malfunctioning equipment and wearing their ear-defenders sporadically and/or incorrectly? And this footnote doesn't even tie up with a * in the main review. It just needed saying. On the plus side, I'm fairly certain the broadcast-restrictions on oil-rigs are still in place, so at least the people most likely to be enraged by the film are statistically less likely to see it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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