Deepwater Blues

deep1.jpg2017.21: Deepwater Horizon (2016) – Streaming, HD

Deepwater Horizon seems symptomatic of modern Hollywood to me.  Its fine for what it is, but it is clearly reshaping a tense and disturbing real-life story into a fairly formulaic mainstream entertainment flick with huge stunts and explosions straight out of a standard blockbuster thriller. Its rather a shame, as it begins with a docu-drama approach that ensures some level of reality as it displays the routines of working on drilling rigs; rostered weeks away from home, the transport offshore, the mechanisms of the rig etc. The safety culture and pressures on that from the corporate side, regards making a profit on huge investments. Its interesting, if somewhat mundane in how it is portrayed.

deep2But of course this is no dramatic examination of corporate greed or safety measures being cut; its really a disaster movie. So the film seems to transform midway and it’s an uncomfortable transition. As extraordinary as the visual effects and the set-pieces are when the shit hits the fan, its nonetheless all too much like the ending of a Marvel superhero movie.  Mark Wahlberg is, as always, Mark Wahlberg, and the film fails to recover from the fact that he simply cannot ‘be’ anything other than who he ever is in a film. Maybe that’s just a personal thing of mine, but he seems to be an actor who, well, seems to bring the same personna to every film he does.  He’s supposed to be an Everyman Joe here, but he just seems to be the same guy from that last Transformers movie, complete with similar pyrotechnics. It needed someone like a young Jack Lemmon or Kevin Costner, but to be fair to Wahlberg I guess there is no real depth of character in any of the people portrayed here.

So for me the film really gets scuppered by  its casting and the pressure to ‘wow’ audiences with extreme explosions and spectacular effects. Imagine if Oliver Stone in JFK-mode got hold of a film like this- he’d have ripped the shit out of the corporate hacks involved and really intensified the injustice and tragedy that unfolded during and -most tellingly- after the event, through the ensuing environmental disaster and rather ineffective courtroom investigations that this film rather tritely passes over with hardly a mention.

Thats the biggest crime of this movie- it shows what happened, and quite vicariously too, but it doesn’t actually say anything.  A film like this, it should say something, yes? It doesn’t say anything about the environmental impact or the economic impact on the area or about the nature of human greed or human complacency, or corporate responsibilities. An Oliver Stone movie would have had plenty to say, I’m sure. Make people angry about shit like this, dammit. Don’t make a trite disaster movie, spectacular as it may be.

A different structure, say, starting with the disaster and then following it up with the courtroom stuff examining the procedures, safety issues and the injustices etc may have afforded a more rewarding movie. But that kind of movie isn’t what makes a blockbuster these days. Back in the 1970s, films dared to be political. Not anymore.

4 thoughts on “Deepwater Blues

  1. “From the director of Battleship.” Don’t know if they used that in the marketing or anything (I’d hope not), but it’s all I can think when this comes up. Maybe that’s unfair, because he also directed Hancock which I quite liked, but them’s the breaks.

    1. Its from the guy behind Battleship? I had no idea. But that does make sense. I’d have lowered my expectations had I known. Too many modern directors are good at visuals/spectacle but deficient regards characterisation or depth of writing. So many films are shot with ill-thought, unfinished scripts and these directors don’t care. Its just a job. Where is the art and craft of storytelling?

  2. Actually there’s probably more truth in that than we know. ‘Money shots’ in films seem to function as much for trailers as they do the films themselves. Its almost like reverse-thinking: this would look great in the trailer, lets shoehorn it into the film. The Enterprise rising from the ocean in Star Trek: Into. Darkness springs to mind. A stupidity highlight to me but a cool shot to help sell the film in the trailer.

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