This image released by Summit shows Mark Wahlberg in a scene from, "Deepwater Horizon." (David Lee/Summit via AP)

This image released by Summit shows Mark Wahlberg in a scene from, "Deepwater Horizon." (David Lee/Summit via AP)

Reeling it in: Film a tribute to Deepwater Horizon workers

“Deepwater Horizon”

Summit Entertainment

1 hour, 47 minutes

One of the most interesting, and dramatic choices director Peter Berg makes in this week’s disaster-at-sea thriller “Deepwater Horizon” is having Kurt Russell’s gruff, tuff Mr. Jimmy confront the initial destruction not heroically head-on, but naked and in the shower. I sound like I’m making a joke, but it’s one of the more memorable scenes in the film, reminding us that stuff doesn’t always happen when we’re ready for it.

If you want another good example of this, watch the shower room fight in “Eastern Promises.” The shower explosion is one of those facts that’s too wacky to be made up, but good on Berg for including it. It’s just one example of how “Deepwater Horizon” is a cut above your typical disaster movie — a fact that’s both good and bad.

Mark Wahlberg is Mike Williams, a maintenance supervisor aboard the exploratory rig, Deepwater Horizon, off the coast of Louisiana. When Mike arrives for the first day of his three-week shift aboard the platform, he is told that the well has been dug, and the rig is going to be moving — that the job is, for all intents and purposes, over. This doesn’t sit well with Mike, who feels the rig has serious maintenance issues, nor with his supervisor, Jimmy Harrell, who fears that all the tests haven’t been done properly to ensure the well can be left safely.

Unfortunately, our two common sense heroes are up against that oldest of villains, corporate cronies. John Malkovich, with the strangest accent I think I’ve heard in a long time, plays Don Vidrine, BP representative and well supervisor on duty. This job is already way over budget and off schedule and the implication is that corners are being cut to save money. Day turns to night, Mr. Jimmy heads off to the shower, and Mike turns to his nightly Skype call to his doting wife, played by Kate Hudson, a character who doesn’t have a lot to do, but at least gets more of a role than poor Laura Linney in “Sully.”

One of the procedures in finishing a job like this is to “offload the mud.” I don’t know what that means, but it’s lucky they did. A large tanker is anchored nearby, ready to take the mud, but soon they’ll collect a different kind of cargo once people start leaping off the rig into the water. Apparently, the well wasn’t as prepped as they thought, and before you know it, first mud, then oil, then flames are shooting high into the sky.

I’m a huge fan of disaster movies. I don’t know why exactly. I’m not some nihilistic weirdo pining for the end of the world, but I do enjoy these stories, whether they’re big splashy affairs like “The Towering Inferno” and “Deep Impact,” or long drawn out narratives like Larry Niven’s “Lucifer’s Hammer” or one I’m reading now, a massive three book series called “The Passage,” by Justin Cronin. I even like Roland Emmerich’s “2012,” and that’s not a good movie.

I think what I like about these kind of tales is the vast canvas they’re painted on — dozens of different characters, spread all over the globe or the city, living their lives oblivious of one another until fate shoves them together. That’s good stuff.

I bring this up because much of both the praise and the criticism of “Deepwater Horizon” revolves around how much of a good old fashioned disaster movie it is. As much as I did enjoy this film, I have to whole heartedly disagree. There are several reasons for this, but most importantly, this is a real event, about real characters, many of whom died a relatively short time ago. Disaster movies are, by and large, fictional, allowing us to feel the thrill of the danger vicariously, but not have to feel guilty about being entertained when so many die.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “What about ‘Titanic? Wasn’t that a disaster movie?’” Yes, but it benefits from being cast with largely fictional characters, and besides, it took place over 100 years ago. “Horizon” has less in common with disaster movies and more in common with movies like “United 93” or “World Trade Center.”

All in all, the film plays it straight up the middle, with good acting, spectacular action, and a tearful ending that could soften the hardest of hearts. This is fine, but it also robs much of the cheesy fun you get from a, say, “Dante’s Peak” for example.

My one complaint is that the movie really shies away from looking at this disaster in context. I understand that Berg wanted to take a relatively intimate look at the lives of the actual people who were impacted, and that’s great, but this spill had a massive environmental and economic impact that is never addressed aside from a quick text tag at the end about it being the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

BP, as a company, is similarly let off the hook. The movie puts Don Vidrine and his partner Robert Kaluza front and center as far as blame goes, but barely mentions the corporate culture at the company, nor does it address the impact this disaster had on BP or on the wider petroleum industry. Obviously, Peter Berg has the right to tell the story he wants to tell, and as far as that goes, he does it well. He’s a talented filmmaker, but I wish this film had just a bit more activism amidst the action.

For the story it’s telling, however, “Deepwater Horizon” is a powerful testament to the resiliency and dedication of those workers, who risked their lives trying to shut off the oil before the spill got out of control. It’s also a testament to the unstoppable Kurt Russell who would never let a little thing like getting blown up in the shower stop him.

Grade: B+

“Deepwater Horizon” is rated PG-13 for language and intense disaster sequences.

Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

More in Life

The secret to this homemade vegetarian lasagna is the addition of fresh noodles from scratch. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: The secret’s in the noodles

Handmade pasta adds layers of flavor to vegetable lasagna

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Downtime

Now here we are, two-thirds of the way through the longest month of the year

Robert “Bob” Huttle, posing here next to Cliff House, spent the night in this cabin in April 1934 and mused about a possible murder there. (Photo courtesy of the Huttle Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 2

How much of the doctor’s actions Bob Huttle knew when he stayed in Cliff House 10 years later is difficult to know.

Achieving the crispy, flaky layers of golden goodness of a croissant require precision and skill. (Photo by Tresa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Reaching the pinnacle of patisserie

Croissants take precision and skill, but the results can be delightful

This 1940s-era image is one of few early photographs of Cliff House, which once stood near the head of Tustumena Lake. (Photo courtesy of the Secora Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 1

Here, then, is the story of Cliff House, as least as I know it now.

File
Minister’s Message: What’s in a name?

The Scriptures advise, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Visitors put on personal protective equipment before an artist talk by Dr. Sami Ali' at the Jan. 7, 2022, First Friday opening of her exhibit, "The Mind of a Healthcare Worker During the COVID-19 Pandemic," at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
ER doctor’s paintings follow passage of pandemic

Dr. Sami Ali made 2019 resolution to paint every day — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Almond flour adds a nuttiness to this carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A ‘perfect day’ cake

Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting make for a truly delicious day off

Most Read