Saturday, November 26, 2016

Didn't love it, but 'Deepwater Horizon' was pretty intense

I love watching incredibly original movies as much as the next guy. When something comes out of nowhere and blows me away with how completely unique it is, I'm likely to praise it more than something that doesn't break any new ground at all. When I watch a movie that feels very unoriginal, I'm likely to point out how it never tries anything different at all, but as long as it's done well that doesn't keep me from enjoying it. This is that last kind of movie: A tragic retelling of the disastrous BP oil spill.

I'm always a little hesitant when it comes to disaster movies. Very rarely do they feel natural, they rely far too heavily on CG, the characters are usually pretty flat -- and honestly, this movie is the same basic way. But again, when a movie handles these things right, it doesn't distract from the experience as a whole. Everything that happens in the first act is used well to establish the characters (as much as you could expect), the setting, and allow the impending disaster to carry more weight when it finally comes to be. We're given a feel for the environment surrounding the characters, the reasoning and technicalities behind the disaster prove to be very avoidable, but also somehow understandable.

As much as Malkovich's character is obviously motivated by nothing more than greed, his rationale is sound enough to convince several characters to continue on with their job, in spite of their hesitation. His performance is one-note but effective, especially considering his thick accent which works surprisingly well. Kurt Russell plays the exact type of rugged, outspoken hero-type you would expect from him, and Wahlberg takes the lead as the character with the most screen-time but the least amount of distinguishing personality traits. He is [insert hero] and he does [insert heroic things] when the stakes are high. This is never a problem, but it doesn't add much of anything to the film.

The real star of the show is the visual effects team. With the exception of a distracting sequence involving a bird covered in oil, the effects in this movie are incredible. The explosions spraying oil, fire, and debris in every direction feel as real here as pretty much any movie featuring these kind of effects before it. Since the disaster portion of the film doesn't occur until the halfway point, by the time it does come around the chaos and impact feels much more substantial than in most CG explosion-fests. Being based on true events also adds weight to this. It never gets old, because it doesn't take enough of the film's time to become redundant, but isn't crammed so late into the film to make the first half ever get too boring. Even during the earlier scenes involving phrases and terminology unfamiliar with lamen like me, this movie manages to be entertaining and effectively suspenseful.

I wasn't blown away by this one, and there were definitely a few moments that took me out of it (uses of the American flag in dramatic sequences were a little obvious), but this was an intense and fulfilling experience that handled the emotional side of the story well, while also providing plenty of thrills.

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