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Deepwater Horizon

If anyone is wondering why all those people are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, watching “Deepwater Horizon” might help them understand. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and Gina Rodriguez, this film is about the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and spilled 210 million gallons of oil into the ocean.

The film focuses on the blue-collar oil workers on the rig, led by Russell. Like a lot of work crews, their camaraderie and commitment to each other give them the feel of a military unit, and it’s not hard to imagine that most of them are veterans. They are seasoned by experience and know their machinery inside and out, but have to take orders from BP executives in suits who rarely even visit oil rigs. Those executives, led by John Malkovich (looking as soulless as ever) are more interested in turning a profit and staying on schedule than in making safe and smart decisions. You make money in business by taking risks, but you take risks on a giant oil rig, and things go boom.

As a disaster flick, “Deepwater Horizon” is just okay.  There is a ton of information the filmmakers have to communicate about how oil rigs work, what the danger is, the safety tests that are being circumvented, etc. And while director Peter Berg handles most of this deftly, it’s like watching a ballerina with a backpack full of concrete try and dance – it’s clear she’s more graceful than you or I would be, but you can also see her starting to sweat.

And then, when disaster does strike, it’s plenty big and explode-y, but also pretty straightforward. Things are on fire, people are trying to escape, and most of them do.  There are a few noble sacrifices made. It’s all furiously paced and efficient in its storytelling. But the best disaster movies involve impossible decisions and moments where characters’ true colors are revealed; here’s none of that here. Berg’s hands are probably tied by the facts; not all disasters can produce fascinating and dramatic stories, and it would be bizarre to expect them to.  It doesn’t make those involved any less heroic, though.

The Bible says “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10.) “Deepwater Horizon” illustrates how a few men, in love with money, made bad decisions that cost the lives of 11 people, and did virtually immeasurable harm to creation. So when they tell you “our pipelines hardly ever break,” you might think twice before you listen.

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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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