This movie is heavy. And rightfully so.
Deepwater Horizon (2016) is a drama thriller directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Battleship). Based on a true story, it stars Mark Walhberg as Mike Williams, an engineer who was on board the titular oil rig during the cataclysmic failure that lead to the massive oil spill in the gulf of Mexico six years ago.
I’ll forgive Peter Berg’s previous directorial credit on Battleship because ever since he joined forces with Wahlberg, his films have begun improving. Case in point: Deepwater Horizon. You would never have guessed that the director of a obnoxiously bombastic action film based on a board game would also skillfully helm a true story with respectful grace. Horizon approaches its subject matter with seriousness and intelligence – it doesn’t try to Hollywoodise the proceedings too much and does its best to accurately portray on a technical level what happened April 20th 2010. That being said, a number of cliches do rear their ugly heads (the loving family at home, stereotypical corporate villain etc.) but 80% of the time, Berg keeps the film serious and in doing so does the story justice while still remaining respectful to the lives lost.
As expected of a serious disaster movie, this film is intense. Even legitimately scary at times. The pure horror and destruction that these characters have to endure is captured in startling fashion with a combination of CGI trickery and practical effects. Granted, it does get a little shaky at times, and the CG isn’t up to close examination, but for the most part it works. That being said, don’t expect any of this within the first 45 minutes. This movie has a slower start that a grandma’s electric scooter and that is going to frustrate certain people. Personally, I just see a solid build up of tension and stakes before the crap hits the fan – even if it does drag on a little too much.
Wahlberg is at the centre of this impressive cast as everyman Williams, a bloke with a loving family, sly intellect and loyalty to the job. Yeah, while the visuals may be impressive, that leaves little time for legitimate characterisation. Wahlberg does well, but there’s little to distinguish his character from every other everyman disaster protagonist. Kurt Russel fares better as Jimmy Harrel, one of the higher ups in command. He’s a sordid, angry bloke that comfortably grabs every scene he’s in with gusto. Other significant names among the cast include John Malkovich as greedy executive #47 (not much to him really), and Dylan O’Brien as Caleb Holloway, one of the ground workers on the drill.
Regardless of all that, its not the cast that’s going to stick in your mind after leaving the theatre. No, that honour rests with the impressively constructed and harrowing experience Burg has created. Pacing aside, this is a solidly serious disaster movie that’s likely to have a larger emotional impact than every Rolland Emmerich movie combined.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended