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Laramie Movie Scope:
Deepwater Horizon

To hell and back on a burning oil rig

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 5, 2016 -- This dramatization of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform disaster of 2010 puts you right inside this hellish nightmare, using a lot of hand-held camera point-of-view shots and spectacular fire and explosion effects.

I'm no expert when it comes to oil rigs like this, so I didn't get all the references to the various mistakes made on this British Petroleum (BP) oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico which led to the catastrophe that killed 11 men (all of whom are named and pictured at the end of the film) and caused an environmental disaster, the effects of which persist to this day.

It appears that from the point of view of director Peter Berg and the writers, the proximate cause of this catastrophe was a combination of inadequate maintenance on the oil rig, and a rush to put the oil well into production without adequate testing of the well structure. From what I've read, that appears to be a very simplified, if not misleading, explanation for what really went wrong. Mistakes were made at multiple levels of authority.

There is a good deal of talk about testing and maintenance problems by the characters in the film, primarily Mike Williams (played by Mark Wahlberg) and Jimmy Harrell (played by Kurt Russell) whose caution is opposed by the impatient, profit-driven BP representative Vidrine (played by John Malkovich, doing his best Cajun accent).

The film unfolds like a typical disaster movie, with an introduction of characters and a slow buildup to the disaster itself, followed by a brief scene back on shore. Mike Williams (Wahlberg) works on computer and other control systems on the oil rig. We see him at home with his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter, preparing for a three week stay on the oil rig.

The film gives us a good idea of the scale of this immense oil platform, and what it takes to run it, with a crew of over 100 people. It turns out that the rig is actually floating on the sea, and it uses large engines to keep it in place. If the rig drifts too far, the well casing will break, and the oil will spill. The job of this crew is to drill the well and cap it. Later, others will come and tap the well and collect the oil.

The capping of the well is behind schedule by over a month, and BP executives want it to go into production so the company can make money off the well instead of spending a million dollars a day to maintain the current capping operation. What could possibly go wrong if the job is rushed? Watch and see.

Wahlberg (“Lone Survivor”) and Kurt Russell (“Furious 7”) do a good job playing blue collar heroes, along with others playing oil rig workers, Gina Rodriguez (Jane in the “Jane the Virgin” TV series) and Ethan Suplee (“Unstoppable”) while Malkovich (“Red”) is good as the bad guy.

While the movie doesn't do that great a job at explaining exactly what went wrong, it does succeed in putting the audience in the middle of the action with effective point-of-view cinematography by Enrique Chediak (“127 Hours”) and with a variety of great special effects, stunts and practical effects. The old disaster movie plot works. The spectacle is impressive. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)