By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
“Deepwater Horizon” is the latest disaster flick to hit the theaters. It tells the seat-gripping story of events that led to that oil exploration rig erupting on April 20, 2010.
Eleven men lost their lives that day, and the oil and sludge continued to gush into the Gulf of Mexico for another 87 days.
‘Deepwater Horizon’ movie poster. Courtesy image
This would prove to be America’s largest environmental disaster, polluting the flora and fauna of the Gulf Coast.
This is not a film about the environmental ramifications of the Deepwater Horizon event, though much of the attention in the news was on that impact. Instead, the focus is on the incredible waste and the human cost of the kind of corporate greed that cuts corners on safety. Men and women who know their rig and what it takes to get the oil out safely, are disrespected by the corporate types, treated as if they are but foot-dragging yahoos. The corporate boys arrive and remind them they are 43 days behind schedule, causing the pressure, both literal and figurative, to rise.
The protagonist of the film is Mike Williams, Chief Electrical Technician on the rig. Mark Wahlberg plays him, with Kate Hudson as his loving wife, Felicia. Mike, in fact, saved many from the inferno, and jumped 10 stories into the Gulf to escape.
As the film opens, Mike is about to leave for 21 days on the rig; in the kitchen, his daughter is preparing a class presentation about how her father “tames the dinosaurs” by digging for oil. Cut to another rig worker trying to get to the heliport for the flight to the rig. This is Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), Dynamic Positioning Operator, one of the few females on board this floating platform, 52 miles off the coast of Venice, Texas. At the heliport we meet the rig boss, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), affectionately known as “Mr. Jimmy”. The movie revolves around these three characters, the camaraderie on board, and their experiences that fateful day.
The action in this film is well edited. Even if you can’t understand (as I couldn’t) everything they yell to each other over the roar of the machinery, you get a good sense for what the rig workers went through: first, everyone doing their jobs, then dealing with failures one by one, until, finally, those become catastrophic. We see each of them reacting in his or her own way as “the worse case scenario” becomes their immediate reality. Words become unnecessary as the rig burns around them.
This film does not go easy on the audience. You may well find yourself gripping your seat or holding your breath. When the 115 survivors at last return to land and their families, you may, as I did, find tears streaming down your face. It is hard to watch. And yet, so many questions you have not had addressed since that fateful day will have an answer, a context within which to make some sense of how it all happened.
Deepwater Horizon is rated “PG-13 for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images.” It is not for the faint of heart. But it is very well done.