DEEPWATER HORIZON. It feels like yesterday when director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg collaborated on Lone Survivor (2013). This is due as much to the punishing, visceral immediacy of that movie as to the fact that 2013 wasn't really all that long ago, and here the boys are again with an even larger scale story about teamwork and self-reliance in the face of disaster. (The timeline is also skewed by the trailer for the upcoming Patriot Days, in which Berg, Wahlberg & Co. will give us their take on the 2013 Boston marathon bombings). Deepwater Horizon is clearly of a piece with Lone Survivor, focusing as it does on the actions of a small group to preserve itself in beyond-extreme circumstances. In the former case, a SEAL mission gone wrong, in the latter, an explosion aboard the titular oil drilling platform which lead to the largest oil spill in U.S. history and an environmental disaster of probably incalculable proportions. While there are clear similarities both contextually and stylistically, Berg demonstrates here that he is a director firmly in control, who prizes story above individual style and who can elicit performances that speak to the depth and resourcefulness of people in times of trouble. While he does occasionally go in for shots with an almost impossibly sweeping scale, Berg's trademark is, as noted above, immediacy. Even in the midst of a disaster picture in the grand old tradition, he keeps the focus tight, staying with his characters and rendering their struggles with clarity and care.
Mike Williams (Wahlberg), our protagonist, is a husband, father, former Marine and chief electronics technician aboard the Deepwater Horizon. He and his team are tasked with establishing and maintaining a safe, reliable connection with an undersea oil well before another team comes aboard to extract the stuff. As Williams, his boss Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell), pilot Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and several others arrive at the oil rig by helicopter, they learn that representatives of the company employing them, British Petroleum, have cut short the testing and oversight process for the newly established well. This throws the crew, and particularly Mr. Jimmy, into immediate conflict with onboard corporate shills/overseers, Koluza (Brad Leland) and Vadrine (John Malkovich, never more gleefully hamming it up), who are both depicted as bumbling, mean-spirited profiteers. Because the drilling process has stretched long past its deadline and its budget, the company men are intent on rushing the final, critical steps. This, of course, proves disastrous.
Perhaps because of the sheer technical scale of this undertaking, Deepwater Horizon does not/cannot maintain the same level of intensity that characterized Lone Survivor. The cast imbues its characters with significance and depth, even in secondary roles, and Berg's light touch and attention to detail lend an air of authenticity and ease to the world of the oil rig. It feels lived-in and real, and the actors take pains to add to that effect. It's a neat trick, making the maelstrom of fire and chaos of the latter parts feel all the more hectic and destructive.
Some may criticize Berg's choice not to more actively place the events of the movie in their real-world context, but I would argue that because it was clearly never his intent, it can't really be cited as a shortcoming. Particularly with Lone Survivor as background, it seems obvious that his fascination is with the reaction of real people to these unreal events as they happened. I think there are more movies to be made about the corporate malfeasance and governmental permissiveness that lead to events like this (and allow them to continue), and Deepwater Horizon acknowledges that fact. But it is a depiction of the events of one day, and maintaining that focus is its success. PG13. 107m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
MASTERMINDS. The world sometimes feels, less now than in the recent past, as though it is made up of people who love Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and people like me. It's funny-ish, I suppose, but from my one reluctant viewing I found it to be nerdy without intellect, stylized without intent, crass without edginess. I define it by its absence of attributes. Of course, I also support the notion of indie moviemakers getting a shot at the big stage, so bully for Jared Hess, all the more so for getting to work with talented, funny people: Jack Black in Nacho Libre (2006); Sam Rockwell and Amy Ryan in Don Verdean (2015); and now Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis, Zach Galifianakis and a host of others. I just wish the movies were funnier.
Based on true events, at least according to the title card, Masterminds tells the story of a no-luck armored car guard named David Ghantt (Galifianakis) who, after becoming enamored with a co-worker (Wiig), is convinced to rob said armored car company and flee to Mexico. His accomplices (Wiig, Owen Wilson, Mary Elizabeth Ellis) turn on him, dispatching a contract killer (Sudeikis) and, well, what follows is ostensibly a dark comedy that is frankly neither dark nor comedic. In spite of interesting performances (especially McKinnon's bonkers turn as Ghantt's fiancée), the movie never finds its footing, coming off as too tame and toothless to suit its bizarre subject. It doesn't help that the entire enterprise feels like it is looking down its nose at the trailer park denizens with which it is populated. PG13. 94m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION. The story of Nat Turner and his slave rebellion in 1831. With Armie Hammer and Aunjanue Ellis. R. 120m. BROADWAY.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Emily Blunt plays a woman drawn into the case of a vanished woman when she witnesses something on her daily commute. With Justin Theroux. R. 112m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE. The new kid in school (Griffin Gluck) sets out to break each of its suffocating rules of conduct. R. 112m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
BLAIR WITCH. With a plot as shaky as the footage, this sequel isn't reason enough to go back into the woods. R. 89m. BROADWAY.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Some fine performances in this enjoyable remake, particularly from Peter Sarsgaard as the villain and a monstrous Vincent D'Onofrio, as well as strong action sequences. Still, it lags in places and breaks no new ground for the genre. PG13. 133m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. Eva Green stars as headmistress in Tim Burton's adaptation of the book about children with magical powers. PG13. 127m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
QUEEN OF KATWE. True tale of a Ugandan girl who rises through the ranks as a chess champion. With David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o and Medina Nalwanga. PG. 124m. BROADWAY.
SNOWDEN. Oliver Stone defies recent expectations for a compelling look at modern society, patriotism, warfare, politics and freedom. With the versatile Joseph Gordon-Levitt. R. 106m. BROADWAY.
STORKS. A retail delivery bird winds up in the baby business trying to get an infant to a family. Or you could just have the talk with your kids. Voices of Jennifer Anniston and Kelsey Grammer. PG. 87m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
SUICIDE SQUAD. This mess of semi-random violence rattles on pointlessly as DC villains take on badder guys. PG13. 123m. BROADWAY.
SULLY. Director Clint Eastwood resists the soapbox for a compact, patiently told real-life story of heroism with a masterful performance from Tom Hanks. R. 106m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill