“She’s gonna blow!”
Marky Mark and a very funky bunch—Snake “call me Snake” Plissken, Jane the Virgin, and Being John Malkovich as a corporate corner cutter heavy on the gumbo, I garontee—attempt to smother that mother of all man-made ecological disasters, the Deepwater Horizon, in… Deepwater Horizon. All that’s missing from this fraught explode-a-thon is “Norristown’s own” Maria Bello as Marky’s missus. This time out that dubious honor befalls Kate Hudson, who displays convincing concern, but isn’t quite the missus material we’ve come to love from old pro Bello.
If the name sounds familiar—Deepwater Horizon, not Bello or Hudson—it’s because this thing really happened. April 2010, remember? That oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that exploded and sank? The one that spilled over 200 million gallons of crude into the gulf for three months straight before they eventually put a lid on it?
It was not cool, people, not a pretty sight. Eleven people died that day. Yet Hollywood somehow decided to turn this colossal personal and eco-tragedy into a raving action flick starring Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell.
Sure, they honor the dead in an end-credits gallery (insensitive not to) and British Petroleum—who eventually agreed to cough up a record $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties—don’t look too good. But what they—director Peter Berg and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand—really seem to care about is capital-S Spectacle and there’s plenty of that to go around. Deepwater Horizon‘s all about the night in question, not the 87-day aftermath and its endless human and ecological repercussions, because explosions make for energetic cinema that sells tickets and oil slicks do not.
Walhberg, Russell, Malkovich, and Gina Rodriguez as the rig’s navigator turn in credible performances. Unfortunately, beyond the marquee names the workers on the rig are underwritten and mostly indistinguishable.
Is it tacky, disrespectful, to craft an entertainment based on a true event in which people lost their lives? Berg and Wahlberg seem to think not—they’re already readying Patriot’s Day, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, for a December release.
Deepwater Horizon doesn’t blow. It’s competently made, noisy, and intense. But it’s not a pretty picture.
(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth