On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig located in the Gulf of Mexico harvesting oil for BP Petroleum, unexpectedly exploded. For the next 87 days, the oil well leaked into the ocean, spewing over 200 million gallons of oil and killing millions of sea creatures. It was the largest oil spill that has ever been recorded.
It was later revealed that the explosion was due to a gas release that went unnoticed when safety procedures had not been properly carried out. With all the news coverage the oil spill gained, the event is, to this day, polarizing to say the least. Most people express anger and blame BP, as it seems the oil spill could have been easily prevented.
Yet, “Deepwater Horizon” approaches these true life events from a different angle. While certainly not excusing any mistakes that were made, the film isn’t an angry exposition piece. It instead aims to honor the 126 men and women on board the oil rig that night for their acts of heroism and pay respect to the 11 who died. The film is their story.
Directed by Peter Berg (“Lone Survivor,” “Friday Night Lights”) and starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell and John Malkovich, “Deepwater Horizon” is an immensely well-told epic story on par with “Lone Survivor” for being Berg’s best work.
While “Deepwater Horizon” ends up being an intense disaster movie in the latter half of the film, the first two acts of the story are dedicated to properly setting up the fallout in order to let the audience in on what exactly went wrong and why. Never over-explaining anything or boring the audience, it’s able to take us through a step-by-step sequence on the oil rig’s failure, from both the machines and the decision -making, making the climactic moments all the more impactful.
Along with a well-told story comes the setup of well written characters. While Mark Wahlberg often plays a similar character in every film he does, this ends up being his best performance in quite some time. He portrays the common-man type persona, allowing the audience to quickly relate to him. The relationship dynamic that is set up between Wahlberg and his wife, played by Kate Hudson, and daughter adds another layer of emotional connectivity through the family’s good chemistry.
John Malkovich and Kurt Russell, two well-recognized and talented actors, both take on characters they have often portrayed similarly in the past. Yet given their charisma and acting talent, they go above and beyond to deliver great performance in roles they are clearly passionate about.
When the explosion actually does take place, the intensity doesn’t let up for even a brief second. Peter Berg has a sharp grip on how to film action, never falling into the Michael Bay camp of having explosions for the sake of more explosions. There’s rhyme and reason to everything that’s happening, letting us feel the seriousness of the situation, the desperation slowly build up and the eventual emotional heartthrobs thrown at the audience.
“Deepwater Horizon” is not just another disaster movie we’ve seen a hundred times over from Hollywood. This is not another “Day After Tomorrow” or “2012.” It’s made with a purpose. Peter Berg once again shows he has a talent for capturing the intensity and humanity of real life events, wanting to shed light on the forgotten heroes who lost their lives to save others. On that note, “Deepwater Horizon” is the type of movie where everyone walks out in silence, as it asks its audience to look past some of their anger towards BP and see the real, personal humanity that was involved.