Deepwater Horizon Mini-Review
Over the weekend, I went out to see Deepwater Horizon and I enjoyed it. It was a good movie that looked at the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon and how a system of bad decisions and poor maintenance contributed to combine into a disaster. While it is based on a real event, it is fictionalized so that certain elements are emphasized while other elements are downplayed. The key the enjoying this movie is to look at it as a movie, not as a biography. As a movie, it works well, similar to others in the genre: Unstoppable, Sully, and Captain Phillips, etc. As long as you realize that they are trying to make a strong movie, but are not trying to give a complete accounting of who did what, when they did it, where they did it, and why they did it, then it is a very enjoyable and tense movie.
A Tale of Two Halves
Practically speaking, the movie can be broken up into two halves: the first part and the second part. In the first part, we see the major characters get introduced and we are given a glimpse into the family lives and banter of some of the crew. Many of the concepts of the oil industry are also explained for the audience using clever storytelling (i.e., show, don’t tell). By getting us to care about the characters, we are invested when things start to go wrong on the oil platform.
The second half of the movie is pretty much devoted to the disaster. We watch as it unfolds and the chain of events get worse and worse. We care for the characters because of the time invested in seeing their lives and interactions at home and once they are on the ship. The action set-pieces were visually stunning and were the highlights of the movie.
Implications for my Writing
I appreciated the way the movie was structured as it allowed for sufficient character development in order for us to care about the characters. The fact that the characters were likable and talking about an occupation that I know little about from experience helped the audience to identify with the characters.
Secondly, the filmmakers used strong foreshadowing techniques to illustrate that while the scenes with the actors interacting might seem dull or passive, that these were necessary to show the “monster” that was about to be unleashed. Foreshadowing the tension to come is an effective way to “hook” readers to stick around while you are character building.
Lastly, the action was intense. We follow the main character, but we do also cut away to show other characters who we’ve seen in the first part of the film. It is important to illustrate characters under crisis and to see how they will respond. Again, the first half sets that up wonderfully. These are three lessons that I took away from this movie.