Deepwater Horizon

All special effects and little substance.

deepwater-horizonDirector Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon is a knockoff version of James Cameron’s Titanic (1997). While the special effects are captivating and likely to receive recognition at Oscar time, the story is strikingly devoid of emotion as you watch 11 people die on the Horizon oil rig in 2010.

In a sense, the film resembles old movie classics like The Towering Inferno (1974) and the Poseidon Adventure (1972). Then again, Inferno had major stars like Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn and Robert Wagner, all facing death as they were trapped in a massive sky scraper resembling the Twin Towers on 9/11. Here you have largely unrecognizable people who are left to die in various violent ways.

Though Deepwater Horizon stars Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich, all three play characters who are surprisingly dull. Russell appears as Jimmy Harrell, the man in charge of those working on the oil rig. Though he is skeptical of British Petroleum’s representatives as they seek to keep pumping oil despite the obvious mechanical problems, he eventually goes along with the team. Mr. Malkovich plays a first-class prick representing BP, and you dislike him almost as much as the oil company itself.

The star of the film is Mark Wahlberg, appearing as Mike Williams, Mr. Russell’s right-hand man. He is the only character whose personal life is explored, but even then you have to put up with his perfect relationship with his wife (Kate Hudson). Quite frankly, they remind you of a soap opera playing on daytime television.

The fact is that the Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, spilling millions of gallons of oil over a period of 87 days. As noted, 11 people died, and one cannot ignore the untold numbers of birds and fish that were poisoned to death. While the film repeatedly hints at the malfeasance of the oil company, it ends up skirting around that principal issue.

The bottom line is that our country has tolerated large companies poisoning the environment on land and sea. Lead has been dumped into our drinking water as reflected in Flint, Michigan and the coal industry has spread toxins through the atmosphere as recently revealed in Southern Indiana.

To hell with the excesses of BP. Hunt down The Towering Inferno.