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Tuesday, January 3, 2017
If you could combine the raw thrills of the old-time disaster epics like THE TOWERING INFERNO, EARTHQUAKE, and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE with a literate script and a story whose basis in fact gives it both realism and a genuine poignance--well, you'd have something. And that something would be DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016).
The 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico of the offshore drilling rig "Deepwater Horizon" is vividly depicted in this fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing film, which pays as much attention to the personal stories of its characters as it does to the dazzling and often heart-stopping action.
Mark Wahlberg plays chief engineer Mike Williams, who leaves his faithful wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) and young daughter behind for a three-week stint aboard the title rig, which is actually a large, untethered ship from which a probing pipeline, the deepest ever, is drilled into the ocean floor in search of oil deposits to be harvested later.
When he and his boss, known affectionately by all as "Mister Jimmy" (Kurt Russell), find that corners are being cut and safety measures ignored by the arrogant, penny-pinching company executive Vidrine (John Malkovich), their urgent warnings are ignored.
Naturally, disaster is imminent, and by that I mean the kind of "disaster-movie" disaster which, if done right, can keep us on the edge of our seats from the first fiery blast to the last smokey cinder.
Director Peter Berg (late of "Chicago Hope" and director of such films as FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and PATRIOTS DAY) knows exactly how to handle a movie like this, starting out with a slowly building sense of unease and gradual increase of tension as the drilling technicians are ordered to exert pressure on the submerged pipeline that we, along with our two main heroes, know it can't handle.
The fact that these characters are based on real people whom we get to know and like as they go about their daily lives gives the prospect of their imminent peril even more gravitas. Wahlberg and Russell are experts at playing this kind of blue-collar hero, with Gina Rodriguez as rig designer Andrea and Dylan O'Brien as drilling floor worker Caleb also adept.
On the opposite end, John Malkovich plays the coldly-calculating company man Vidrine to the fullest of his considerable abilities. Not too sure about his accent, though--I think it's supposed to be cajun but it's kind of hard to tell. Russell's real-life daughter Kate, on the other hand, seems to have done a little homework on hers.
The first half of the film is all suspense mixed with, in my case, a sort of wide-eyed awe at the vastness and complexity of this modern offshore drilling rig whose bridge resembles that of a futuristic starship.
We're made even more uneasy when it becomes clear that the new vessel is ridden with bugs and woefully unprepared for what's to come--nothing seems to work, not even the telephones, and even worse, not even crucial alarm systems.
When the inevitable occurs at about the halfway point, DEEPWATER HORIZON suddenly becomes one of the most mind-bogglingly epic and consistently thrilling action flicks I've seen in many years. Everything hits the fan once the big pressure test on the pipeline goes wrong, and when this monster goes up in flames, the result is one of the most astounding and downright hellish conflagrations ever filmed.
After that, the latter half of DEEPWATER HORIZON is pure non-stop action and suspense mixed with heartrending human drama which director Berg pulls off with nary a misstep.
Camerawork and editing are exquisite, while the SPFX, including an amazing full-scale mockup of the rig itself topped by a working heliport, are a near-flawless combination of practical and digital effects which help to engage the viewer in a thrillingly immersive experience.
The two-disc set from Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment offers the feature film on both Blu-ray (1080P High Definition 16x9 Widescreen) and DVD (16x9 Widescreen) in addition to instructions on downloading a digital copy. Needless to say, picture and audio quality are excellent.
Blu-ray Audio: English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD compatible), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening, English Descriptive Audio. DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, English Descriptive Audio. Subtitles are in English and Spanish.
Blu-ray extras consist of the following featurettes:
“Beyond the Horizon” Hour-Long Five-Part Series
“Captain of the Rig: Peter Berg” Featurette
“The Fury of the Rig” SPFX Featurette
“Deepwater Surveillance” Raw Footage Featurette
“Work Like An American” Tributes
The DVD contains “The Fury of the Rig”, “Deepwater Surveillance” and "Work Like an American."
All too rarely does a movie comes along which sets out to do something amazing and then does it so well that it leaves the viewer in a state of prolonged astonishment. DEEPWATER HORIZON does exactly that, and I would, without hesitation, call it one of the finest and most spectacular action/disaster epics that I have ever seen.
Buy it at Amazon.com:
4K Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital HD)
Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital HD)