Director Peter Berg reunites with his Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg for Deepwater Horizon, an adrenaline-pumping thriller set on an oil rig at sea and based on devastating true events. The action scenes are intense and stunningly realistic, and the story remains relevant six years after the events portrayed onscreen.
Deepwater Horizon explores the events immediately leading up to the explosion on the oil rig leased by BP (formerly known as British Petroleum). By focusing on the day of the rig’s destruction, screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand trim all the fat from the story and lay out the crucial facts. Surrounding the central story of the oil rig going up in a massive fire, the script provides for plenty of opportunity to meet the Deepwater Horizon crew and think of them as individuals which allows the audience to truly care about their welfare as the disaster unfolds.
As described in the film, the deep-water drilling platform was held together by a dedicated crew that was handcuffed by the fact BP did not want to spend money on much needed repairs. Too many shortcuts were taken by the leasing company and the “well from hell” experienced a blowout that caused 11 workers to lose their lives while countless others were injured. Millions of gallons of oil filled the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days, resulting in a devastating ecological disaster.
Deepwater Horizon primarily focuses on the lead electronics technician Mike Williams (Wahlberg) who leaves his wife, Felicia (played by Kate Hudson), and daughter to work on the rig. Mike’s a decent man, hard-working, and a no-nonsense guy who fights a losing battle to keep the rig’s electrical systems working well enough so that the Deepwater Horizon was safe for the workers on board.
Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell), the crew boss who puts the safety of his employees before anything else, is also a key character in the story. Mr. Jimmy knows the BP executives on board the rig are only looking out for the bottom line, but his loyalty to his crew is unflinching. The drilling operation is six weeks behind and Mr. Jimmy is asked to move forward without the requisite safety checks. He refuses, butting heads with BP bigwig Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) who is only focused on the fact this well is costing the company millions of dollars as the result of the delayed drilling.
The safety tests Mr. Jimmy demanded prove there are problems with the cement around the well. A stream of bubbles quickly evolves into a gushing flow of oil, and almost immediately the rig is awash in flames. The crew, and the BP executives, have to fight for their lives amid the fire, oil, flying shrapnel, and massive pieces of metal falling onto the rig’s platform.
Berg does an excellent job of staging the rapid disintegration of the oil rig. The flames seem to leap off the screen and the action is intense and in your face. In fact, Deepwater Horizon is Berg’s best action film to date. He tells this riveting story in a straightforward style and his cast, led by Wahlberg, Russell, and Gina Rodriguez as a computer expert who remains at her post almost too long, deliver outstanding (and believable) performances. In supporting roles, Malkovich, Dylan O’Brien, and Ethan Suplee are equally terrific.
Deepwater Horizon is a thriller that provides a behind-the-scenes look at a true life disaster while also entertaining the audience. It’s a fitting tribute to the crew of the oil rig and one that should spark conversations over the industry and the possibility of another colossal disaster of this sort.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images
Running Time: 107 minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2016