From now until February 26th, I’m going to be taking a brief look at the nominees for this years Academy Awards, one film at a time.
Nominated for: Best Sound Editing | Best Visual Effects
The most unnerving thing about Peter Berg’s retelling of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy is that it in trying to recount the events, it turns out to be a visually exciting entertainment. That’s absolutely the wrong approach to this material, particularly when recounting an event in which 11 men lost their lives. Of course, one could argue that a movie like Titanic did the same thing, but the difference is that James Cameron’s film made sure that we understood the human element first. His visual effects were in service to the story, not simply in service to giving the audience its money’s worth.
My basic problem here is that the movie glosses over the people involved. The men on the oil rig, particularly those who didn’t make it back home are not seen as flesh and blood human beings, but as pegs used to be propped up and knocked down. When we see photographs of the real men at the end of the film we have no idea where they were in the movie or who played them. They are simply a vague name and then a casualty. That’s a disservice to this tragedy and one that made this critic unusually uncomfortable.
Whatever you think about the events that transpired on that doomed oil rig, this is a standard disaster film from top to bottom. There are the good blue-collar joes doing their job vs. the big bad corporate money men who want to cut corners. That may play as good conflict but it doesn’t accurately portray the events that led to the explosion. This film is going to make damned sure that blame is place one a single individual and that you get your money’s worth in the visual effects department.
The special effects department is really the star here, the whole last third of the film is made up of impressive visual effects but there’s little-to-no orientation to give us a sense of placement, where are the men in conjunction to the danger zones? Who are the injured? Whose been killed so far? We need to be part of the experience here not just part of the action.