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Reel Time | November 2016

Deepwater Horizon Photo by David Lee

Deepwater Horizon

Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) is the chief electronics technician for Deepwater Horizon, the offshore oil drilling rig 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. He has no idea of the disaster to come when he wakes early on April 20, 2010, and kisses his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter goodbye for a 21-day stint on the rig.

Mike and his colleagues, including technician Andrea (Gina Rodriguez), land on the rig at the same time as three executives from British Petroleum (BP). They have come to present a safety award to “Mr. Jimmy” (Kurt Russell), the captain of the rig, and his workers.

But a steady unease is spreading among the crew. They are being rushed to finish drilling. BP representative Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) listens to the list of over 300 items to be fixed on the rig. He insists that there’s nothing to worry about, including BP’s decision not to run an essential test on the stability of freshly poured concrete due to time and cost. Pressure tests proceed and disaster strikes. The well explodes from beneath the ocean, causing the worst oil spill in history.

Deepwater Horizon is a deeply disturbing film because of BP’s wanton disregard for human life and the environment—and the raw greed that drove executives to ignore every warning and best practice. This is an important film that should prompt us to find new sources of energy. Excellent performances enhance the film, but the disaster element dominates. This is quite hard to watch, but riveting as told through Williams’ experience. Deepwater Horizon is based on a true story.

Not yet rated, PG-13 ♦ Peril, greed, violence.

Sully: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


When Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and copilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) take off from LaGuardia Airport with 155 souls onboard US Airways Flight 1549 headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, things seem normal. Then they collide with a flock of Canada geese that stall and then kill both engines.

The pilots think about returning to LaGuardia or landing in Newark and Teterboro, New Jersey, but there is no way. In a little over 200 seconds, Captain Sully and crew bring down the plane safely on the Hudson River. This film is so moving. Tom Hanks is known as the most trusted actor in America. I think Captain Sully is the most trusted pilot in America. Bring them together and you have a beautiful story filled with character and courage.

Director Clint Eastwood keeps the narrative spare. There are no embellishments here: he chose to make Sully, a true leader, the star over the drama and trauma of the ascent and descent of the airplane. When the FAA investigates and calls the pilots’ judgment into question, the drama is amplified. I loved this film, which is based on a true story.

A-3, PG-13 ♦ Peril.

Light Between Oceans: CNS Photo/Disney

The Light Between Oceans

After World War I, a small town on the coast of western Australia hires the trustworthy Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) to tend the lighthouse on the isolated Janus Island. He meets the much younger Isabel (Alicia Vikander), and they marry several months later. She then miscarries twice.

One morning, he finds a rowboat on the shore with a dead man and a baby girl, still alive, inside it. He intends to write a report and call for a boat to take the child to the authorities, but Isabel begs him not to. They conspire to raise the child as their own. No one on land questions the baby’s identity.

Complications set in when, after a few years, Tom discovers the child’s mother (Rachel Weisz). His conscience has tortured him from the first day they found the girl, but to appease his lonely wife, he went along with the fraud. He is compelled to reveal what they did; what follows is heartbreaking and sad. But the inner logic of the film doesn’t quite work.

The film’s cinematography is stunning and atmospheric. While I question the wisdom of ever making this story into a movie, it is worth seeing for Fassbender’s performance. Every torturous doubt, every decision, every emotion shows on his incredibly kind face. Though he and his wife made a bad choice, he starts to put things right. The film is based on the novel by M.L. Stedman.

A-3, PG-13 ♦ Some sexuality, brief peril.