Sunday, October 2, 2016
Deepwater Horizon 
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review
Deepwater Horizon  (directed by Peter Berg, screenplay by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand based on the NYT article by David Barstow [wikip], David Rohde [wikip] [IMDb] and Stephanie Saul [NYT] [IMDb]) dramatizes the final hours of the Deepwater Horizon off-shore oil drilling rig, which exploded on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico after a well blowout, resulting in one of the most spectacular industrial disasters in memory and the worst oil spill in U.S. waters in history.
What happened? As the name of the ill-fated rig already implies, the rig and its crew were pushing the limits (the horizon) of deep-sea (deepwater) oil drilling. To do so, they were inevitably taking risks. Both the article and the current film note that the rig was not particularly well maintained (there is the temptation when "pushing the envelope" to let more "mundane" maintenance concerns take a back seat...). Added to this, British Petroleum, which contracted the rig from Transocean (the rig's owner), was pressuring Transocean to get the particular well that the rig was drilling _done_ (it was over 50 days behind schedule) so that the rig/crew could proceed to BP's next project (that it had _also_ already contracted Transocean for). So there was commercial pressure as well to go faster with this project than would have been smart or prudent. Well ...
While the film simplifies some of the dynamics -- BP was definitely cast as the villain in the film, while the original NYT article put more attention on Transocean's own cutting corners in neglecting both maintenance and emergency preparedness protocols -- the film IMHO does capture, and quite viscerally, the horror of a _really big disaster_ exploding upon a rather complacent crew accustomed to getting by on quick-wits (as necessary) and ... luck. This time the roulette wheel spun terribly, terribly wrong ... Even the best bronco-rider can sometimes be thrown-off his horse in a particularly bad way and ... stomped. Here the oil well exploded, 11 of the Deepwater Horizon's crew died in the explosion / subsequent fires and the environmental damage caused by oil disaster remains simply incalculable.
Heroics of the crew aside, the greater society has the right to ask the question: Should that crew have been out there drilling for oil "in our name" in the first place?
An excellent / thoroughly thought provoking film about a tragedy that on multiple levels, honestly, didn't need to happen.
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