If you go to the movies right now, you will be faced with an opportunity to screen a couple of true story films featuring two types of "everyman" heroes: Tom Hanks and Mark Wahlberg. Both are two of America's favorite actors who frequently portray relatable characters in different styles. Tom is your nice guy, politely educated, favorite uncle type. Mark is your totally buff, rough and tumble, will you cuss you out with good reason, favorite cousin type.


Hanks is in the near disaster film "Sully" and lands a plane on water. Wahlberg plays oil rig engineer Mike Williams who tries desperately to save a doomed, exploding oil rig. Both display the stuff heroes are made of: putting others first and an innate ability to use reason and logic when reason and logic are in short supply.


In 2010, British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig blew up killing 11 people and causing the worst environmental disaster the United States has every encountered. It dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into a huge area of water that was relied upon by the millions of people and millions of animals. The human cost was tremendous and the financial cost will ultimately be in the trillions. The key thing is it was totally preventable.

The film opens with Williams and his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson) working with their daughter on a show & tell science experiment that demonstrates how an oil rig works. Or how it is supposed to work. In an omen of omens, the experiment using a Coca-Cola can, explodes leaving high fructose corn syrup all over their kitchen.


On the actual rig, BP bosses have the rig hovering over a region in the Gulf of Mexico called the Mancondo Prospect that promises to gush billions in profits into the pockets of BP and Transocean (the company that owns the rig). Local oil manager Don Vidrine (John Malkovich) is anxious to get things moving along and using his Foghorn Leghorn Southern drawl, ignores the warnings of Williams and the rigs captain Jim Harrel (Kurt Russell). The warnings were that the area was a "well from hell" and the rig, in it's current state of corporate neglect and shortcuts couldn't handle it. Adorned with a Fuller Brush mustache, Kurt Russell delivers his hardened and sarcastic criticisms perfectly.


Naturally, Vidrine as the arrogant and less educated evil guy, insists on moving forward to get those profits flowing. That courage soon evaporates when, as predicted by Williams, the well blows and things go haywire. The Macondo well erupts, things explode and a fiery I-told-you-so engulfs the Horizon.

Unlike Oliver Stone's 2006 "World Trade Center" which tip toed along the edge of paying homage to the dead and being boring, director Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights", "Hancock", "Battleship" and "Lone Survivor") steers the cameras directly into the hellstorm and curtains of fire. People get killed. Ducks and pelicans get fatally covered in oil. Disaster strikes with the same cinematic appeal as "Towering Inferno" and "Airport".


But at no time are the actual lives lost marginalized or made to come across as strictly entertainment. Berg makes sure that the story retells the heroism involved, just like Clint Eastwood made sure that "Sully" was wrapped around the heroism of Captain Sullenberger.


While "Sully" vilifies the NTSB and insurance companies that attempt to remove the hero tag from Sully and find fault with his reasoning (to no avail), "Deepwater Horizon" develops the corporate managers as the bad guys cloaked in greed and stupidity from the very beginning. It then makes it a point that the little guy - the grunts that worked the rig - heroically tried to cope with the crappy cards they were dealt.


In both films, the audience is made aware of behind the scenes events that most did not realize happened. "Sully" exposed the flawed NTSB investigation and "Deepwater Horizon" exposes that not everyone associated with the disaster was a greedy corporate suit; that there were ordinary guys awash in extraordinary events.


Wahlberg and Berg worked with each other on the true to life film "Lone Survivor" and upcoming "Patriots Day"; they know each other well and gel well together and with the rest of the cast.


"Deepwater Horizon" is a terrific tribute to the heroism of the of the doomed oil rig and a stern criticism of the corporate greed that let the disaster develop. It proves a true story disaster film can be engaging and entertaining without offending the victims.   -- GEOFF BURTON