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Deepwater Horizon: Engaging Retelling of One of History's Worst Environmental Disasters
Taking on the real-life disaster that was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is no easy feat – and turning it into a thrillingly immersive and effectively engaging movie is another thing altogether. Luckily, Deepwater Horizon is in good hands with Peter Berg – see Lone Survivor – and his favourite leading man, Mark Wahlberg, delivering a thrilling ride in the rousing the haunting account of a devastating incident that, up until today, is considered to have caused one of the largest accidental marine oil spills in the world.
The story is set on Mike (Wahlberg); an electrician and oil rig worker who is preparing for another three-week job working aboard the Deepwater Horizon – a semi-submersible offshore drilling unit, operating some forty miles of the Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico. Leaving his wife, Felicia (Hudson), and their ten-year-old daughter, Sydney behind, Mike soon boards the Horizon along with his boss, Mr. Jimmy (Russell), - a man concerned with the lack of safety regulations taken on by the BP officials which include BP rig supervisor, Donald Vidrine (Malkovich) – Andrea Fleytas (Rodriguez) and one of the youngest member of the crew, Caleb Holloway (O'Brien).
Despite Jimmy's protests, the drill is given the green-light, resulting in an immediate disaster caused by an overpowering flow of mud and gas rushing back through the pipes. Ripping up the vessel into pieces, before consuming it in flames, Mike, along with Caleb and Andrea, takes on the the chaos and panic in order to help others and guide themselves and everyone else to safety.
Scripted by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand – who took their cue from New York Times article titled Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours – the story takes its time to build-up the dangerous and somewhat lonely world the characters live in before eventually diving head-first into the disaster that awaits. Though the language used is unapologetically technical and sometimes keeping up with the jargon can be a little tiring, the story is also careful to keep things as realistic as possible, defiantly painting the BP executives – John Malkovich's Donald in particular – as the villains of the story.
Skilfully embracing the 'hows', 'whys' and 'whens' of the incident without ever relying on over-explanation the aesthetic of the movie, especially when the story turns on the disaster mode, are aptly gritty, giving the film an authentic feel.
Performances wise, Wahlberg plays his usual cool, swashbuckling self, while Malkovich shines as the smarmy BP engineer. Hudson is equally solid as Mike's wife and Jane the Virgin's very own Gina Rodriguez is given the opportunity to show off the more dramatic side of her acting skills.
Despite occasionally dipping into Hollywood action territory, all in all, Deepwater Horizon is a solid, real-life disaster flick which delivers big action, strong drama and a harrowing insight into one of the largest environmental disasters in US history.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.