Here in San Antonio, gas prices are $2 a gallon. Life is good. The world may be going to hell in a deplorable hand-basket, but if gas is cheap, life is good.
Gasoline is like pork chops. When you buy pork chops at the grocery store, you never fully imagine the horrors the unfortunate Porky Pig went through before ending up in a frying pan.
It’s the same with gasoline. Gas just magically appeasers at the gas pump. Pop in the nozzle. Fill it up. Go inside the 7-Eleven, grab a bag of spicy Cheetos, a handful of Slim Jim’s, a Big Gulp, swipe your credit card. Presto! You’re ready for San Antonio traffic jams and a two hour commute home.
But, of course, the process of drilling for oil is a complicated, enormous undertaking fraught with life-threatening perils. The story of the hard-working people who labor on off-shore oil rigs, so we can fill up our SUV’s, is brought to explosive, flaming life in Deepwater Horizon.
On April 20, 2011, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, located in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded killing eleven workers. The resulting oil spill was the largest in history. The US government estimated that 210 million gallons of oil spewed into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico causing unimaginable, wide-spread devastation to the environment, wetlands, beaches and wildlife. After 87 days of continuous oil discharge, the well was reportedly sealed.
Deepwater Horizon is Hollywood’s latest offspring from it’s very successful pedigree of “disaster” films. The disaster film formula is simple. Take a disaster, any disaster: earthquake, flood, volcano eruption, fire, the Trump presidential campaign. Toss in an ensemble cast of character actors along with spectacular special effects, stir for a couple of hours and viola; instant summer blockbuster!
As a disaster film, there’s much to like about Deepwater Horizon.
You can’t argue with the cast headed by veteran action / adventure stars Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell. Wahlberg, as Mike Williams, gives another steady, believable performance as a blue-color “everyman” who finds himself becoming a hero in a horrific situation.
Kurt Russell. Well, Kurt Russell is, and will always be in my mind, Snake Plisken. ’nuff said. Russell is one of those rare Hollywood actors who has successfully made the rite-of-passage from child actor in Disney movies to adult roles in every conceivable genre. Now, Russell is transitioning nicely into more mature roles. The guy can do it all and has proven it over a long career.
The Hollywood Reporter named Gina Rodriguez “the next big thing” and one of the top “35 Latinas under the age of 35.” She’s received kudos for her performances in the CW’s Jane the Virgin, and her star turn in the indie film, Filly Brown. In Deepwater Horizon, Rodriguez breathes grit and heart into her supporting role. Certainly, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Gina Rodriguez in larger parts in feature films.
In the opening scene of Deepwater Horizon, director Peter Berg builds the suspense gradually with a warm, loving sequence of domestic interplay between Mike, his wife and daughter. But Berg sets off the ticking time mob when Mike arrives on the job and senses that things are not quite right.
Like many disaster films (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Titanic), the plot fuse is lit because of cost-cutting measures or reckless disregard for safety in order to maximize profits; actions that invariable result in tragic consequences.
The fiery destruction scenes in Deepwater Horizon are well-staged, riveting, thrilling, laced with authentic humanity, bravery and grace under fire and yes…explosive!
Deepwater Horizon could have easily worked as a horror film. Who can forget those sickening, nightly underwater images of gigantic, billowing clouds of oil endlessly gushing out into the sea? Who can forget the gut-wrenching newsreel footage of dead dolphins floating in the water and oil-soaked sea birds on the gulf shores? And who can forget British Petroleum (BP), the greedy, corporate, “mad scientists” who created this monster?
Ironically, it’s science fiction and monster movies that often serve as cautionary tales of human excess and hubris. Films like Invasion of the BodySnatchers, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Planet of the Apes are fanciful yarns wrapped up inside a morality fable that often left us with uneasy, unanswered questions. Remember how many of those old, great science fiction flicks ended with: THE END?
Deepwater Horizon points an accusatory finger at BP, but chooses not to prosecute the case directly. It was a creative and economic choice. Message films tend to flop at the box office.
But Deepwater Horizon succeeds as a story of personal heroism, courage and the triumph over adversity in the face of a calamity of epic proportions. It’s a compelling and contemporary story given the current debate this country is having over “drill, baby drill” and the quest for clean energy.
However, it must be noted that since that catastrophic 2011 event, many new off-shore oil drilling platforms are being planned to operate in the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the Deepwater Horizon oil well being officially listed as dead and sealed, oil continues to leak into the Gulf. THE END?
Director: Peter Berg
Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Matthew Sand
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez
Genre: disaster, action / adventure