AN UNFLINCHING, up-close look at the devastating repercussions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, The Great Invisible travels from Alabama to Louisiana to Texas, tracking down oil rig workers, oyster shuckers, shrimpers, and crab pickers to document how life along the Gulf of Mexico changed after 200 million gallons of oil gushed into the gulf over 87 calamitous days in 2010. Also included in the film are the grief-stricken family members of some of those who died onboard the Deepwater Horizon; local church members trying, against all odds, to help their impoverished communities; and oblivious oil executives, puffing on cigars like they're cartoons of themselves. Predictably, nobody from the companies responsible for the spill—BP and Transocean—takes part in Margaret Brown's searing documentary, though after seeing the footage in The Great Invisible, one can understand why: It's hard to imagine that anything they had to say would count for shit.
In broad strokes, The Great Invisible examines how the spill happened—outlining the careless, profit-focused attitudes of an industry that, despite massive, inherent environmental risk, enjoys a remarkable lack of regulation. But Brown's gaze—somehow both sympathetic and angry—is better focused on those who've been affected: the blue-collar workers and hard-up residents of the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods and lives were changed by the spill; the people who, unlike those of us thousands of miles away, are still dealing with the spill's environmental, economic, and social problems.
Despite what BP's feel-good commercials try to claim, not much has changed in the Gulf Coast since the spill, and all of the pieces are in place to almost guarantee a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon's catastrophe. You won't walk out of The Great Invisible feeling good—you'll feel awful. Given the subject matter, that's exactly how you should feel.