Film: ‘Deepwater Horizon’; Director: Peter Berg; Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson; Rating:**
At the very end when you thank God, Producer and Destiny for Aliberty from the 2-hour claustrophobic tedium , a display card in the end-titles informs that we’ve just seen a film based on the worst oil rigging disaster in the history of such disasters.
Nothing compared to the disaster that is this awful true-life drama that does disservice not only to the people who suffered serious blows to life and health when an oil drilling ship off the coast of Louisiana went up in flames in 2010, but also to the disaster genre.
We’ve seen much better fire-disaster films in the past.
The Poseidon Adventure in 1972 and The Towering Inferno in 1974, with their severely limited access to special effects, got us sucked into the anxieties and fears of the characters trapped in a raging fire while lounging in the lap of luxury. Serves them right, we said, as we watched the Page 3 crowd run for their lives.
Here in “Deepwater Horizon”, we are not even allowed to feel that distant contempt for the characters who land up in a deathly fire caused by human error. We feel neither the sense of foreboding that shadows the preamble of all disaster epics. Nor we do get involved in the survivors’ attempts to escape the burning ship.
The characters are all tropes rather than individuals. The Brave Rigging Recruit Mike(Mark Wahlberg), his pretty wife played by Kate Hudson who has to do nothing except pout after sex before husband leaves for the doomed ship, and bite her lips anxiously when he goes missing.
Sorry, Miss Hudson. But Laura Linney did it much better in Sully.
Actors of the stature of John Malkovich are rendered as teeth-gritting idiots who should have known better.
It’s not the actors’ fault if they appear stilted and distant in their distress. The screenwriting is so sketchy as to reduce the characters to shadowy figures waging an indeterminate war against the fury of a fire that, alas, leaves us the audience unsinged, unscathed and finally untouched.
The actors struggle to sound casual Awith lines that attempt to include technical jargonA in the everyday conversation in the oil spiel. But it all seems a bit of a hoax, hefty, but nonetheless artificially induced calamity even though it is based on a real incident.
Director Peter Berg had earlier collaborated with Mark Wahlberg for the far more engaging Lone Survivor, a war film set in Afghanistan with ample room for self-congratulatory machismo. This one, big and bulky in scale, just slides to the ground in an oily mess weighed down by the burden of conveying real-life incidents .
The film’s fire sequences on board the ship are filmed not to complement the drama but to accentuate the visual velocity. It’s like watching a video game without really participating in it. Highly rigged, in more ways than one.
Watch out for that one shot where real-life father and daughter Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson come together for a brief hug. The moment is warmer more intimate and emotionally equipped than any of the sniggering screaming snarling and sobbing that goes on during the rest of the film.
By Subhash K Jha