Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Couch Potato: True Stories - Deepwater Horizon, Snowden

Deepwater Horizon

I watched two movies based on actual events this weekend, and of them Deepwater Horizon really stands out. It may be the best movie I've seen in months. I rented it on a whim, wanting to earn more about the Deepwater dsiaster, but not expecting that much.

This is a disaster film that feels like a horror movie. The movie is mainly from the point of view of Deepwater Horizon worker Mike Williams (played by Mark Wahlberg). It opens with Williams testifying, but you just see a black screen and introductory credits. Then you get the start of a normal day for Mike and another worker, both at their homes getting ready to head out for another 3 week shift. The opening is full of foreshadowing and dire omens (ignored by everyone, of course).

Although Mark Russel is the lead, Kurt Russel as his boss steals the show. The "villain" is the BP exec played brilliantly by John Malkovich. But the real antagonist is the monster lurking in the deep - the ticking time bomb of millions of barrels of petroleum under high pressure beneath them.

When it finally explodes the action is devastating and frightful. I think it was the combination of sound effects at one point. And I have to admire the stoic heroism of the workers that keep it together during the crisis and go right back into danger to save others.

I think it's a riveting action thriller that deserves more recognition. My only complaint is that, after watching it, I still don't know exactly what went technically wrong to lead to the explosion.


Snowden, on the other hand, was rather tedious. Despite a great performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden, including doing an amazing vocal impression, the movie just takes forever to get going. Too much time is spent on Snowden's relationship with his girlfriend. The movie wants us to believe it was this great love story we should care about, when by his actions Snowden himself seemed to care very little for her.

I think part of the reason the movie fails is the timing - we already know about the NSA / CIA overreach on surveillance and not many seem to care. There are no new shockers revealed by the movie. There is no new insight into Snowden's motives - he is painted here as the altruistic hero. That's part of what really kills the movie for me - there's an overall sense of smug superiority that director Oliver Stone seems to infuse it with. It's a good thing I watched it on dvd so I could at least get some chores done while watching.

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