by Tony Medley
OK for children.
For anyone who either
doesn’t remember this disaster or might have just seen some reports on
television, this is a real eye-opener. Brilliantly recreated by Peter
Berg, the rig with 126 crew members blew out on April 20, 2010. Not only
did people die, but millions of barrels of oil were released into the
This film is almost
like a documentary in the way it captures the disaster. One of the
survivors, Mike Williams (played exceptionally well by Mark Wahlburg)
was a consultant on the film and he came on board when he learned that
Berg was telling the story from the POV of the survivors and not just a
semi-documentary of a major disaster.
Wahlberg says, “I was
pretty adamant about having Mike with us the whole way. He was the last
one on the rig, and he knew so much about what really happened there. I
didn’t want to just meet him; I wanted him around and consulting with us
the entire time. It turned out he was a great help to everybody. He had
complete license to say, ‘hey, this didn’t happen that way. This is how
it happened.’ He could stop us at any time and give us more to go on.”
The result is a film
that gets an A+ for verisimilitude. What happens when the rig blows out
is astonishing to behold. That so many survived was a miracle. The film
captures the power and danger involved in pumping oil especially on an
ocean rig. It is astonishing.
While the special
effects are nothing short of spectacular, justifying the $156 million
budget, what sets this movie apart is that there are also some fine
performances. Gina Rodriguez plays Andrea Fleytas, who was the Deputy
Dynamic Positioning Officer who had the important responsibility of
maintaining the floating rigs position directly over the well using
propellers and thrusters. Fleytas played a key role in what happened
after the blowout. Rodriguez is a beautiful woman and pictures of
Fleytas during the end credits show a remarkable similarity.
Kate Hudson also
gives a good performance as Williams’ wife, Felicia. There are cuts to
her at their home as she hears about the disaster.
Hudson’s step-father in real life, also contributes a fine performance
as Jimmy Harrell, the offshore installation manager, who was basically
in charge of the entire crew. The scene of his injury is grotesquely
realistic and the makeup is superb. For one whose first memories of
Russell are as a Disney teen star, it’s still a little jarring to view
him as a greybeard.
I have saved the best
for last however. John Malkovich plays Donald Vidrine, Louisiana – based
British Petroleum manager, one of the film’s heavies. Malkovich always
seems to steal every scene he’s in, no matter what the movie, and he
does that here, also.
What we see on the
screen in this movie is really just the tip of the iceberg. What you
don’t see in this movie is that this spill actually lasted 87 days (what
we see is just the first day) before a ceiling cap permanently closed
the leak on July 15, 2010. More than 200 million barrels of oil leaked
into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill was 18 times the size of Exxon Valdez
spill in 1989. British Petroleum estimated that the cost of the spill
was $53.8 billion in fines, cleanup, and settlements.
Over 16,000 miles of
coastline were affected in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and
Florida. BP eventually pled guilty to two misdemeanors, 11 counts of
felony manslaughter, and one felony count of lying to Congress. This is
the largest criminal resolution in American history. The spill covered
88,000 square miles of ocean surface. Over 8,000 birds, turtles, and
mammals were reported dead up to six months after the blowout. More than
1400 dead dolphins and whales have washed up on America’s shores since
the blowout. The spill created a Gulf dead zone (low oxygen areas in the
ocean) that can reach up to thousands of miles.
I wasn’t expecting
much when I attended the screening, but came away enormously impressed.