Year Released: 2016
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Maldovich
(PG-13, 99 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Drama
“Our choice is to burn or jump.” Mike Williams
Sure, you know what happened on April 20, 2010. The oilrig Deepwater Horizon blew, and it blew big. But that knowledge doesn’t make it any less awesome when you have a front row seat within the ticking time bomb that fateful day.
In fact, knowing that you are watching events that actually happened, rather than – say the tangled imaginings of some upstart screenwriter – actually makes the film more gripping.
The film is as tight and business like as the well-trained crew on the rig. Sure, we get a bit of background on Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg). But the scene at home before he leaves for 21 days on the rig is anything but the clichéd emotional fluff we sometimes get in disaster flicks. As his daughter previews her school presentation of her dad’s job, we get a simple overview of the power of oil buried under the sea as well as the affectionate and playful interaction between father and daughter:
Sydney Williams: My dad is Mike. He works on a drilling rig that pumps oil out from underneath the ocean. That oil is a monster, like the mean old dinosaurs that oil used to be. So for 300 million years, these old dinosaurs have been getting squeezed tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter.
Mike Williams: We get it. Just use two tighters.
Sydney Williams: Then dad and his friends make a hole in their roof and these mean old dinosaurs can't believe it. So they rush through the new hole, then smack, they run into this stuff called mud that hold the monsters down and build them a new roof.
And her prop, a shaken soda can spiked with a metal straw and capped with honey to simulate the mud, captures the essential dynamics of drilling. And a pretty good hint of what is to come as well when the soda explodes from the top of the can like Old Faithful. Only no one is expecting this disaster.
Or are they? On the way to the rig, Mike checks to see that his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) knows where all the insurance and banking documents are. And her slight surprise indicates this isn’t a usual ritual.
Even though we know what will eventually happen, the film keeps us aboard with its pacing and escalating action. Things and people are always in motion. Most of the conversation is clipped. There is no lingering around the water cooler here; everyone is on to his or her task, on the move up or down the metal stairways that envelop the rig. Mike, the Chief Electronic Technician, talks cars with Andrea (Gina Rodriguez), whose job it is to keep the rig stationed snugly over the oil, as they each head to their respective offices on board.
The chief source of the escalating tension is not the “mean old dinosaur,” the oil well itself burping some 35,000 feet below. Only the audience is privy to these shots. The tension above revolves around the assessment of it.
The installation manager, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) does nothing to hide his antipathy for the BP managers who regard him and his crew as the hired help. They are about to cap the well and move on – some 50 days behind schedule, and BP has dismissed the cement inspection crew without allowing a final test.
His chief adversary is BP’s Donald Vidrine, played by John Malkovich, laying on a Louisiana accent as unctuous as the oil itself, oozing a sneering disregard for safety as well as undisguised corporate greed and self importance. It is obvious that BP had no hand in the screenplay or the direction, as they come across as uniformly villainous and /or incompetent, whether or not that is accurate.
The action sequences are excellent. The explosions and fireballs must be computer generated, or how else would the cast survive, but they look very real. We have that same claustrophobic atmosphere that we get in submarine films, groups of people huddling in cubicles as the rig starts to blow.
But not all at once, and those moments of indecision in the beginning when some think they can stem the leak, add to the suspense.
At the center of it all is Mike. Whether he is calming the mobbed lifeboat station, rescuing a crewman wedged under debris, or going back into the inferno to find his supervisor Jimmy, he is a source of strength. And we see that selflessness in several other crewmembers, too. Jimmy walks on bloody feet to the command center, while Mike will not let others lose hope:
My wife's name is Felicia and my daughter's Sydney and I will see them again. Do you understand me?
Given the force and sudden onset of the disaster, it is amazing that of the 126-member crew, only 11 lost their lives. This film is a tribute to the heroism of those who helped others survive and a tribute to those who did not.
This is a real “summer” blockbuster based on true life heroes, not comic book characters. Enjoy it with the whole family and show them some unsung heroes that hardly ever make it to the big screen.
The Deepwater Horizon rig was just 40 miles or so off the Louisiana coast, so for your viewing pleasure I’ve found a great Cajun dish. This one is fashioned for a slow cooker, so you can have your meal cooking while you go to an early matinee if you want.
It’s a triple play of chicken, sausage, and shrimp with plenty of herbs and spices to liven things up.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Recipe By:Colleen Murtaugh
"This recipe came about from a lot of experimenting over the years. My family and friends like this version the best. Serve over cooked rice."
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails
In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery, and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.
Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low, or 3 to 4 hours on High. Stir in the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time.