Taming fiery dinosaurs

Deep Water Horizon – Taming the dinosaurs

It is not easy to create a historically accurate re-telling of a life event while still capturing the human element, but Deep Water Horizon succeeds in spades.

The plot chronicles the events of the 2010 oil-rig explosion that killed 11 men and caused a massive offshore oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

It suggests the “accident” was entirely preventable as the crew (under protestation) was directed to take short cuts when the project began to run behind schedule.

The film is based on the crew’s experience and centres on Chief Electrical Engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and Operations Supervisor Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) as they return to the rig to spend another shift of 21 days at sea.

On the transport helicopter are some “suits” from BP (British Petroleum) who have been sent to find out what the delay is and to, ironically, present Harrell with a seven-year safety award.

The corporate greed of BP is embodied by villain Vidrine (John Malkovich), who smiles and sneers at the workers with equal arrogance and disdain. His job is to ensure the profit of the company, period.

The film breaks down into two parts:

  • Part one — meet the crew
  • Part two — all hell breaks loose.

The vibe of the crew as they jest and poke at each other is light and realistic. Some dialogue is banal and some funny, but all of it helps us understand what it takes to work on a floating stick of dynamite 45 miles from shore.

Wahlberg plays Williams simply and with sincerity. He is an honest and straight-forward guy who does the right thing in times of crisis.

There is some great chemistry between Wahlberg and Kate Hudson, who plays his wife, Felicia. Their dialogue is casual, relaxed and real and the dynamic with their precocious 10-year old daughter is charming.

While he is home on leave, Williams’s daughter reads the story she’s written describing what her daddy does for a living.

He “tames the dinosaurs,” she says, referring to the fact that oil comes from the prehistoric creatures. She explains that her dad pours mud down pipes to keep the pressure from overpowering the system.

She then proceeds, with her dad’s help (it is obvious they’ve done this many times before), to illustrate the metaphor by puncturing a soda can with a metal straw and pouring liquid honey into it to stem the bubbling cola.

The scene is foreboding when the soda can erupts unexpectedly considering what we know is going to happen.

When the oil explodes into the pipe room, it arrives with all the force and destruction of a rampaging T-rex.

We also get to meet the only woman on board the Deepwater Horizon, Andrea Fleytas (well played by Gina Rodriguez – Jane The Virgin series), a technician running the complex navigation system that keeps the rig centred over the drill site.

She becomes a key voice of reason in the midst of disaster.

Damn, Malkovich plays a great villain. He gives Vidrine a Louisiana drawl that oozes a plantation owner's disregard for the underlings that run his place. Shivers!

Kate Hudson is heart-breaking as Williams’s wife, desperately calling all the numbers on her check list trying to find out what is going on. Anyone who has worried about a loved one can relate to her feelings of fear and helplessness.

Kurt Russell looks haggard, but perfect as the crusty and disenchanted Jimmy Harrell. It’s not his first rodeo and he struts aboard the rig like a sheriff in a spaghetti western.

At $110 million, the CGI and cinematography are everything you would expect, and director Peter Berg has done an excellent job manufacturing the chaos of a total system failure.

The use of lighting and sound combines to recreate the disorientation and terror the crew must have felt. It is unnerving and adrenaline-inducing to watch.

The film is a 107-minute-long roller coaster that ends with the survivors rushing into the arms of their loved ones.

It is an emotional reminder that for everyone involved on Deepwater Horizon (or any life-threatening ordeal), it is the relationships in their lives that matter most.

The fire burned for 87 days and leaked an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It remains the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Great acting, great directing and a compelling story of heroes and villains makes this a film worth seeing.

I give this film 4 out of 5 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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