The last time Director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg collaborated, they brought us Lone Survivor, a really good film with an unfortunate title. Does lightning strike twice with their latest film, Deepwater Horizon?
Based on true events, the film tells the story of the men and women who worked on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. The film introduces us to Mike Williams (Wahlberg), a family man who is flying out to the rig for his scheduled rotation. He is joined by the project foreman, Jimmy “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell (Kurt Russell) and engineer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez). The Deepwater Horizion, which was owned and operated by Transocean, but was drilling for BP, is behind schedule by forty-three days and the BP executives on board the floating rig, Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Kaluza (Brad Leland), are getting anxious. When Mike, Gina, and Mr. Jimmy arrive, they see a testing team leaving and Mr. Jimmy tries to get a straight answer as to whether the team tested out the new concrete that was poured. He demands that the rig does a test to see if the drilling can withstand the pressure. When the test comes back negative, Vidrine calls for a test of the back-up line, theorizing that the first test was a false positive. When the second test comes back positive, Vidrine browbeats the team into starting the actual drilling and disaster hits. There is a huge explosion on the rig and now Mike and the others have to fight for their lives in order to escape the floating deathtrap.
Deepwater Horizon is one of those movies that made me angry. When you watch this thing and you see the exorbitant cost, loss of life, and the ecological damage of the massive oil spill that resulted, you can’t help but think, Wouldn’t have those problems with solar. So, I was pretty pissed to see just how much of a waste this whole endeavor is when as a society, we could be working toward something that’s safer and cleaner. Anyway, Deepwater Horizon is a solid film. Knowing what the aftermath of the explosion was gives the entire film a sense of dread throughout. Also, the survival scenes are very tense and exciting. However, knowing the outcome of the story is a slight detriment to the film as a whole. It’s not as much a problem as it was in Sully—because that film had a decidedly much happier ending, which equaled little to no tension at all—but like Sully, this event is still fresh in most viewers minds. I will say, though, that while Berg avoids wading into the politics that followed in the aftermath of the incident—the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill was the worst in U.S. history—he and screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand firmly lay the blame for the tragedy at the feet of BP executives. Another small issue I had with the film was in the first half. Much of the dialog in that part of the film is overly technical and it was very easy to get lost in all the jargon. The second half excels, because it focuses on the human drama and left of the how this happened.
The entire cast does fine work here. Wahlberg, as usual, performs up to the material. In a movie like Transformers 4, he’s terrible, but in a well-written piece like this, he shines. Russell is also great as Mr. Jimmy. He brings a nice sense of maturity and gravitas to the endeavor. Rodriguez is also very good as Andrea. I don’t watch her show Jane the Virgin, so this was my first real exposure to her as an actress and she does a really nice job here. I enjoyed John Malkovich very much in his role, but his performance felt a lot like a James Carville impersonation as he went for a full Cajun accent. Dylan O’Brien does some good work here as Caleb Holloway, another worker on the rig and Kate Hudson is very good in her scenes as Wahlberg’s wife, Felicia. The film represents the first time she and Russell—her father in real life—have worked together.
All in all, Deepwater Horizon is a very solid film that is well worth your time at the theater. It does a fantastic job of focusing solely on the human drama of survival with a cast well-suited to deliver the story. Check it out if you have a chance.