Movie Review: Deep Water Horizon

Most jobs people have are not the kind of jobs where if you screw up or are incompetent or just have a bad day that someone will die. What happens in cases like this is that the one bad day is forgotten or the mistake you made is bad enough to get you fired. If you’re a manager over other people, the mistake you make can not only screw up your job but the jobs of several others you are supervising. If you’re the CEO of a company like Enron, all the companies involved in the financial crisis and most recently Wells Fargo, your mistakes can bring down the whole company, or cause huge fines and your options are to resign yourself, wait to be fired and of course as all CEO’s in situations like these, deny you knew that anything illegal or stupid was going on to cause the crisis. Even in extreme cases like this, with huge responsibility and ramifications, nobody really dies. This is not true if you’re a doctor and in certain situations a nurse where if you make a mistake someone can die; for jobs like these there is no room for error. When human lives are on the line there has to be a higher standard, a higher level of responsibility, of safety and redundancy because if a mistake is made then people can die, and sometimes many of them.

On April 20, 2010, the worst oil spill in the history of the Petroleum Industry happened in the Gulf of Mexico on the Deep Water Horizon oil rig. We find out at the start of this movie, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson, that the crew on board the Deep Water Horizon was the crew responsible for the exploration for oil and not the actual extraction of oil, a task that would be taken care of by the crew that followed them.

As the movie starts, a crew from another oil company is dismissed by BP (British Petroleum) executives before they had a chance to check the cement surrounding the underlying pipe of the oil rig and the reason for this was to save money, approximately $125,000. Considering the enormous market capitalization of British Petroleum, 186 Billion in 2010, and the 126 lives at stake, this was the first major mistake the company made to save on the bottom line. We later find out that the oil rig had numerous problems with parts and equipment and once again because of the bottom line, very little of these problems were ever fixed, making the oil rig even more dangerous to the 126 people who were working on it. Most alarming were the two water and oil pressure tests that were ran right before the explosion due to the concerns of the two engineers played by Russell and Wahlberg. Despite the findings that one of the major pipes from the ocean floor, 5000 feet below to the rig was having major pressure problems, the rig was still declared usable to by the BP Executive on board the rig, played very well by John Malcovich. The BP executive looked for a reason to not believe the test by running a new test on a kill line. This one horrible decision is the main reason why 11 people were killed and billions of dollars of damage to the ecology and economy of the area then happened. Once again, as has happened so many times with companies forgetting that the lives and safety of their workers should be their number one concern, people died.

As far as the movie, there is not much of an involved story here, just some up front stories of the personal lives of some of the men who were lucky to survive this oil spill and the main part of this includes Kate Hudson who plays Wahlberg’s wife. What follows just demonstrated the incompetence and bad decisions of some of the executives responsible for this very preventable accident.

When you see the amazing technology and complexity of oil rigs like the Deep Water Horizon in this film, anyone would have to believe that there could be 1000 things that can go wrong. Considering this accident in 2010, the world is very lucky that there have not been many more accidents like this one or even worse over the many years since ocean oil exploration began. The statistics of the losses caused by this oil rig tragedy in 2010 are staggering. The spill took 87 days to stop. 11 people on board the rig when it exploded died and were never found. This was the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, an estimated 8% to 31% larger in volume than the previously largest, the Ixtoc I oil spill. According to the satellite images, the spill directly impacted 68,000 square miles of ocean; which is comparable to the size of Oklahoma. By early June 2010, oil had washed up on 125 miles of Louisiana’s coast and along the Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama coastlines. Oil sludge appeared in the Intracoastal Waterway and on Pensacola Beach and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. In October, weathered oil reached Texas. As of July 2011, about 491 miles of coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida were contaminated by oil and a total of 1,074 miles had been oiled since the spill began. The cleanup cost BP 14 billion dollars. Some estimates are that the penalties and fines BP had to pay are as high as 90 billion dollars and another 6.2 billion from lawsuits. Considering all of this, it is hard to believe that BP still even exists.

Overall, I thought this movie was very well made with outstanding special effects and I do recommend it.

Past Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

It is very hard to believe that this great movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, arguably Will Smith’s best performance came out almost 10 years ago.  The best part about this film is the unbelievable story and the fact that all that happens in this movie is true.  Chris Gardner, who is played by Will Smith, was a man in his 30’s who was always just about go to under financially. He was married, with one young son and his latest and riskiest current method of making a living was buying and then selling portable x-ray machines.  There are several scenes in the beginning of this movie showing a large number of these x-ray machines in Gardner’s apartment which meant that now that he had invested in so many of them, he now had to sell all of them to make a profit.  The contrast between the extremely intelligent man we grow to know Gardner is, compared to the man he was at the beginning of the movie who is trying to sell portable x-ray machines is one of the most amazing parts of this story.

The terrifying message behind this film is that homelessness can come to any of us and all it might take are just a few bad decisions or stupid mistakes which very often are born out of desperation. I know this first hand because some years ago when I was 19 years old, I was homeless on a bus myself. The beginning of this great film shows Gardner trying and mostly failing at his attempts to sell portable x-ray machines to different doctors and hospitals in the area.  As Gardner’s desperation grows, his marriage goes from bad to worst and eventually his wife, played by Thandi Newton leaves him to raise their son, played by Will Smith’s own son Jaden Smith alone. What follows are horrible scenes of standing in the lines of homeless shelters and sleeping overnight in very depressing locations including the men’s room of a subway with his young son.  What is worse and more depressing about all this is that Gardners 7-year-old son is along for this horrible ride through the horrors of homelessness.  His cries of desperation and constant questions to his father as to what is going on is heartbreaking and at times impossible to watch.

The other part of this movie is the most triumphant part and what turns this from a story of tragic disaster into a story of survival . Through an intern program with a major financial institution, Gardner sees an opportunity to save his life and the life of his son. But when he enrolls he has no idea that the intern program, which hires only a small percentage of the interns in the program as full-time employees, pays no money.  This only leads to more homelessness and desperation for Gardner and his son and Gardner’s pursuit of this last-ditch effort to save his life and survive is one of the most inspiring I have ever seen in any movie.

The end of this movie, which I will not spoil, has one of the most emotional endings I have ever seen in any movie and because of this last scene, Will Smith should have won his first Academy Award, although he was nominated.

If you have never seen the Pursuit of Happyness you owe it to yourself to see it because it is a one of a kind great movie. The movie spells Happiness “Happyness” for reasons that are not really explained in the movie, but I can only figure that they wanted the word Happy fully spelled out somewhere in the title. Another message from this movie would be that to be happy, like everything else in life, there is a price to pay.

Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven

The original “The Magnificent Seven” came out in 1960, and is considered a classic movie western. So like the recent Ben Hur remake Hollywood has decided to remake another classic movie. However, unlike Ben Hur which came out a few weeks ago and was mostly a bad movie, this remake of the Magnificent Seven was very well done. The story like the first movie is very simple. A bad man tries to take over a town by killing and terrorizing its citizens and then steals not only their land but all their gold. The evil villain in this movie is played extremely well by Peter Sarsgaard and seemed to have an innate ability to completely embody evil during this entire film. Even his IMDB picture shows him making a rather evil looking face.

Denzel Washington is also very good in his role and I think this is the only Western he has ever made during his long career. The rest of the cast includes Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onfrio and Chris Pratt and they all do outstanding jobs in this movie. Haley Bennet is also very good in her role as one of the residents of the town that was destroyed by the evil businessman, losing her husband in the process.

Of course, any remake of the original Magnificent Seven would not be as good as the original, but this one does stand on its own as an excellent movie. The original story has changed somewhat in this remake, making it unique enough for any die-hard lover of the original movie be curious enough to want to see this remake. The story is one we have seen before about injustice, an evil villain businessman who steals the property of poor townspeople and eventually revenge as the townspeople hire these seven men to stand up to the evil businessman and his army to rightfully take back what is theirs. Stories like this appeal to almost everyone because in our own lives most all of us want the good guy to win and the bad guy to get what he deserves; ultimately for something that is massively wrong to become right. Unfortunately, very often in real life this is not way things work out but we all want them to, just so everything makes sense in the end like it does in the movies.

The action sequences in this movie are very impressive and I have always been amazed at the logistical problems directors of action movies like this must have to overcome so there are no injuries to any of the actors, extra’s or horses that are used in so many scenes. The director Antoine Fuqua did an excellent job with this movie which must have been a logistical nightmare with the hot desert heat, very complex shooting and action scenes involving horses and even explosives. This movie reminds us of the mid 1800’s and how dangerous it was to live in the West in those days as murder, lynching and the lack of any real laws made living in that time extremely difficult. Just about everybody had a gun and would use it it seems just about every day. I thought this movie was very well done and I do recommend it.