First of all it has to be established that Williams is a regular family man, with lovey-dovey wife (played by Kate Hudson) and a wise-ass 10-year old daughter, so sweet I could have just scooped her up and barfed all over her, her parents making knowing smiles at each other as she spouts forth her precocious pearls of wisdom. So we're on the man's side right from the start, are we not?
Williams is an electronic technician working on the rig, also with Kurt Russell, installation engineer among the hundred or so men. Also present, for me there is the film's saving grace, John Malkovich, sneeringly supercilious, larger-than-life and as watchable as he always is. Unfortunately, only appearing in the film's first half, he doesn't have anything like as much to do as I would have wanted.
At the instigation of the Malkovich figure, testing the drilling is carried out (Were we seriously expected to follow all those technicalities? I hadn't a clue what was going on!)
Things turn awry, first quietly, then in spectacular fashion - and I have to say the effects really are impressive, with nearly everyone coated, first in oily mud (rendering some of the cast hard to recognise) - and then an all-consuming fire breaks out. At the key moment St Mark is on visi-phone to wifey making coochy-coo small-talk. He hears a strange noise but dismisses it. Then as things get serious the screen blanks out - and of course Mrs Williams gets rather concerned. After a phone call or two when she hears what's happened she becomes distraught, just as a faithful, dutiful wife ought to do.
Emergency services are alerted and come to the rescue, or at least to rescue whoever they can, St Mark playing a key role in raising the number of survivors.
The film reminded me very much of the spate of disaster films made in the 1970s, though rather less interesting than some of them, notwithstanding that this one is based on fact rather than fantasy. Also, it hardly needs saying that the effects here are quite staggeringly realistic - or so one imagines they are.
Director Peter Berg has 20 films as director to his credit, though none of them in the 'outstanding' bracket as far as I can see, and I doubt if this film will change that. He does what is required here. If this story hadn't been true I might have described the film as formulaic. It certainly follows all the 'rules' one might expect so I can't see anyone coming out feeling cheated.
In the final analysis I suppose the film's chief value is to demonstrate a lesson in how an organisation's (B.P.) neglect in order to cut costs can get away scot-free after contributing to such a large-scale human and environmental disaster, and that truly is a message of despair.................6.