Whether he would consider it a compliment or not (it actually is) when director Peter Berg turns his eye to action he truly is the thinking man’s Michael Bay. Cramming in simular bombast into their movies they also like sticking a blue collar, salt of the earth, straight shooting every men right in the middle of the spectacular carnage. They also both really seem to like Mark Wahlberg too.
Let’s just get to it. I really fucking loved this movie. Back in the 90’s, before producer Jerry Bruckheimer kept making pirate movies for Disney, all his films felt like this, no matter the genre. Star studded casts, massive conflagrations and character bonding that would leave a lump in the manliest of throats.
This is something that Berg has somehow recaptured in a more subtle way (thankfully, as the exploding of massive oil rig off the coast of Mexico in 2010 is obviously a true story).
Well, I say subtle… BP may not agree with me.
The secret to this movie is casting. Every role here is cast to type, you could describe it as directorial shorthand, so the very actor portraying the character tells you who these guys are. Wahlberg is a decent family man, Kurt Russell (with requisite awesome facial hair) is the honest-as-the-day-long boss and John Malkovich is so cold blooded as the questionably accented BP honcho I was genuinely surprised that there wasn’t a subplot outing him as an actual giant lizard.
With all that out of the way, most of the dialogue – be it technical jargon or legitimately humorous quips thrown over a shoulder – give everyone a sense of lived in comradeship which gives Berg the space he needs to load on the tension as every groan, every wheeze, every bubble could mean the overworked pipes are gonna blow. It’s incredibly effective and the result is the best disaster movie in ages.
And then the rig blows – but the film doesn’t. Men give their lives trying to save friends, jaws are clenched in frustration and Wahlberg even gets to belt out that old disaster movie ditty, the “I will see my family” speech and it’s all old-school rip roaring stuff. Flames everywhere, bust valves pinging everywhere like bullets from Saving Private Ryan, Russell trying to maintain order despite both his eyes swollen shut. Classic stuff. Expect big chunky man-tears. Even if you’re a woman.
So, yeah. I really enjoyed this movie.
Great actors, lots of fire and enough respect for the 11 men who lost their lives to portray the survivors as real people after their ordeal and not ridiculous swaggering hero archetypes.
One of my best of 2016.
Oh hey, they DO make ’em like they used to!