Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the true-to-life thrills of “Deepwater Horizon,” Tim Burton’s X-Men-esque “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,” the thriller “Imperium” and the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary “The Lovers and the Despot.”
Director Peter Berg makes manly-men movies about tough guys willing to sacrifice all in the service of others. Films like “The Kingdom,” based on the 1996 bombing of the Khobar housing complex and “Lone Survivor,” his look at the unsuccessful United States Navy SEALs counter-insurgent mission Operation Red Wings, are loud action movies bound together by testosterone and sentiment.
His latest, “Deepwater Horizon,” based on the worst oil spill in US history, fits comfortably alongside “The Kingdom” and “Lone Survivor.” All three are true life tales, ripped from recent headlines, and each of them are loud, in-your-face movies that feel more motivated by muscle than brains.
Mark Wahlberg is Mike Williams, husband to Felicia (Kate Hudson), father to an adorable little girl and the chief engineer of the offshore oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. In April 2010 he left for a routine twenty-one day stint aboard the rig that turned disastrous when an uncontrollable gusher of crude oil caused an explosion that ultimately left 11 of the 126 crew members dead.
It takes an hour of getting to know everyone, like British Petroleum executive Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), no-nonsense crew chief Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) and rig mechanic Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), before disaster strikes, both literally and narratively. When the rig blows it takes with it any semblance of storyline, replacing with plot with forty minutes of relentless, fiery action.
Berg doesn’t just want to show you the hellish circumstances that destroyed Deepwater Horizon, he wants you to leave the theatre feeling as though you were there. Fireballs light up the screen as the sound of twisted, breaking metal fills your ears. It’s effective, if a little repetitive after thirty minutes or so. The characters get a little lost in the commotion and are frequently hard to see through the plumes of smoke that decorate the screen.
As an action movie and a story of resilience “Deepwater Horizon” is a visceral experience. As a tribute to the men who lost their lives in the blast it feels less thought through. The In Memoriam roll honours those lost, but feels tacked on after the bombast that precedes it.
Also strange by its absence is any comment on the devastating ecological consequences of the event.
“Deepwater Horizon” is a showcase for Berg’s muscular filmmaking but could have used a little more nuance.