Movie Review - Deepwater Horizon

Peter Berg was an actor on Chicago Hope but decided he instead wanted to direct. For the better part of a decade, he was best known for Friday Night Lights, the film and its subsequent TV series. It seemed for a brief spell like his career might go the way of Michael Bay when Berg released Battleship (2012). He seemed almost in-line to helm big, dumb action flicks, but with this movie, as well as Lone Survivor (2013) and the upcoming Patriots Day (2017), Berg has settled into the position of telling real-life, survival stories with former rapper and one-time Calvin Klein model, Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg stars as Mike Williams, one of the crew members on board the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig that in April 2010 exploded, setting off a huge fire and resulting in 11 deaths and an oil spill that now stands as the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history and one of the largest oil spills in the world. Mike is a charming and no nonsense man with a wife and daughter.

He and Jimmy Harrell, played by Kurt Russell (Stargate and The Hateful Eight), are the two guys who are the voices of reason against Vidrine, played by John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire and Con Air). Vidrine represents the corporation, known as BP, that stereotypically puts profits or potential profits over safety and proper protocol. As is the case with most corporations, fictional or not, dramatized in film or not, plowing ahead ignorant of the warning signs is the road taken until literally all Hell breaks loose.

Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, adapting an article in The New York Times, that Hell breaking loose is intricately detailed. We watch as bit by bit this huge machine is destroyed, exploding in pieces, continuously shattering upwards until the whole thing is consumed in an oily fireball and by smoke. It's very well done and thrilling.

Berg directs it without missing a beat and keeping the adrenaline levels high. With the special effects and the visual effects, it makes the movie vastly better than a lot of the big-budget flicks of the summer. It's even comparable to another film this summer about people trying to escape a vessel that's being destroyed, Star Trek Beyond. It's on the same level as that sci-fi pic.

It's in visceral terms better than another disaster flick just a few weeks ago, Sully, which shares with this movie a portentous bird-strike. With an early scene of a group of people flying by helicopter to a remote place where human ingenuity goes awry, I was also reminded of Jurassic Park while watching this. However, while it might aspire to that Steven Spielberg smash, this movie doesn't quite get there.

It's interesting that Kurt Russell is in this film because ten years ago Russell was in Poseidon (2006), which was a remake of The Poseidon Adventure (1972), which had already been dwarfed by James Cameron's Titantic (1997), but yet all those movies have a similar premise and structure. A vessel out in the ocean is damaged and starts to sink and the people inside have to try to escape without getting killed. While Berg has a handle on the forward momentum and his actors gave very good performances winding to a highly emotional tribute to the men who died, the script doesn't give us enough time or information to truly empathize with any of the men or even one woman Andrea, played by Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin).

Dylan O'Brien (Teen Wolf and The Maze Runner) was also in this movie. He's unrecognizable as his character is constantly covered in dirt and oil. When he gets cleaned up, it was nice to see him, but again the script doesn't provide us with anything to hang on him. O'Brien played Caleb Holloway. According to news reports, Holloway was the youngest of the crew members. In The New York Times article, his nickname was "Hollywood." Is any of that given breath in the film? No!

The best Carnahan and Sand's screenplay can muster is Andrea needing to repair her broken car. The few scenes with Mike William's wife, Felicia, played by Kate Hudson, and his daughter are way more than what was afforded the wife in Sully but still very inadequate. However, Wahlberg's moments with Hudson especially in the end are extremely cathartic and probably represent the best acting that Wahlberg has ever done. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn't require that much from him.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and disturbing images, and brief strong language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.


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