A technically proficient film that thrills and impels reflection.
From the outset director Peter Berg does a commendable job in transforming an oil rig into a mechanical monstrosity of gargantuan proportions. With the clever use of sound effects and fast-paced editing, Berg depicts the sheer ferocity of the oil rig seemingly hidden under a veneer of mundane mechanics. The tension Berg creates on-screen is pulsating as the audience are made to constantly wonder who the next causality of this man-made abomination will be.
However, for all the pyrotechnics and noteworthy stunts the film boasts it is based on a heart-wrenching true story about the human and environmental cost of corporate greed in the oil and gas industry. Berg does a fine job in balancing the action motives of the film with nuanced performances from Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell. While their dialogues provide little scope for high strung dramatics, both actors subtly portray the frustrations and anxieties their characters feel when dealing with corporate executives who place a higher premium on their next bonus pay-check than the lives of the crew members.
Needless to say John Malkovich does a fantastic job portraying the ‘head honcho’ on the rig, solely fixated on defying all laws of physics and pure common sense just to fulfil his KPI. His greed and complete disregard for human life is frighteningly convincing. While Malkovich’s character might not resemble all executives in the oil and gas industry, I certainly cringe in fear at the possibility of having just one more executive share a similar inhumane inclination.
While at times the film suffers from pacing issues in an attempt to build up suspense, Berg ultimately redeems himself in a climatic sequence that unabashedly showcases the valour of the working class. Shot with such realism, I was questioning whether any of the actors actually got hurt hurling through treacherous explosions.
The film ends on a cautionary note reminding us of how our reliance on fossil fuels to power our daily lives is an outmoded method of living and the time for change is now. But I can’t help but feel rather cynical than hopeful when the film emphasises that the ‘corporate giants’ involved in the biggest oil rig disaster in American history got away scot-free.