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Deepwater Horizon **

Too much teasing exposition, not enough humanity in this story about the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Is it worth $10? No

Foreshadowing manifests in a variety of ways in disaster-driven films, and better movies convey these elements with a modicum of subtlety and grace. Unfortunately, “Deepwater Horizon" has the subtlety of a sledgehammer dropped from a 10-story building.

For example, the main character, Mike (Mark Wahlberg), works on oil rigs created for offshore drilling. Before he leaves for a 21-day job on board the Deepwater Horizon rig off the coast of Louisiana, his daughter (Stella Allen) explains his job for a science project using a straw, honey and soda can. In a rudimentary way, we're clued into the technology of the oil rig and its potential dangers. A few moments after she's done with the demonstration, the can overflows. Point taken.



If this were the only obvious foreshadowing it'd be okay, but seemingly everything in the opening 50 minutes (which is half the movie) winks toward impending doom: Rig foreman Jimmy (Kurt Russell) tells BP execs not to wear a magenta tie because magenta is the color of extreme danger warnings; essential tests are not run to ensure the safety of the rig; stubborn BP execs (John Malkovich and Brad Leland) insist on drilling regardless of safety concerns; phones don’t work; Jimmy insists on running a negative pressure test because “it never hurts to run a test,” he says; Jimmy and the rig receive a safety award hours before the explosion; and there are numerous shots of the bubbling surface a mile below, ready to blow.

This isn’t just setup, it’s overkill. What director Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor”) loses in these teases is the ability to really get to know and like the people whose lives are about to be in grave danger. We meet Andrea (Gina Rodriguez), who can’t get her Mustang working and whose boyfriend will not let her drive his motorcycle. And that’s all we learn about her. Jimmy is…we never learn anything about him. Young and eager Caleb (Dylan O’Brien) works hard, but we never learn anything else about him. The only person whose personal life is revealed is Mike’s, which would be fine if he was the only one in peril, but there were 126 people on that rig. Given that the movie is based on 2010 true story of the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, more stories should’ve been shared.



The visual effects are fine, but after the explosion the narrative doesn’t get much better due to the aforementioned lack of emotional investment in the characters. Also, there are multiple scenes in which competent people act in ways that defy logic, which is infuriating, and there are enough strong images (including a bone protruding from a leg) to make you question the validity of the PG-13 rating.

It’s not easy to base a story on an oil rig explosion, but if you’re going to do it, you need to do it better than “Deepwater Horizon.” All attempts at emotion feel strained and superfluous, though credit should be given to Kate Hudson for making the most of the thankless role of Mike’s wife. The disaster itself is harrowing and terrifying, but it’s not done well enough to offset the feeling of inevitability brought on by the first half of the film. The events in a movie such as this should feel shocking, not expected.

Did you know?
This is the first time Kate Hudson has worked with her “stepfather” Kurt Russell; Goldie Hawn is her mother and Russell’s long-time boyfriend.

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