Film review: Deepwater Horizon

Commendable for taking its time with character development and setup before the destruction takes centre stage, Peter Berg’s film about 2013’s BP oil spill disaster is riveting in its depiction. Following the events on the oil drilling ship Deepwater Horizon before and after the catastrophic events that left 11 dead, others injured and dumped more than 700 million litres into the Gulf of Mexico, the film excels in its examination of several lives while admittedly bypassing many of the implications on the environment created by the spill.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Mike Williams, a repairman on the ship when it exploded in flames. He is reliable in his portrayal while adding a strong centre for the story, focusing the ensuing destruction on his attempt to survive and get back to his family. While his actions have been exaggerated for the movie, it is a welcome sight to have Wahlberg play a character who isn’t a completely unstoppable badass.

The supporting cast all do a great job in their roles, especially Kurt Russell’s Captain Jimmy. His renaissance as of late continues, giving him ample time to flex his acting chops and the character’s mispronunciation of words. Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien and John Malkovich all work within the story even if they are underused for the most of the running time.

Berg’s pairing with Wahlberg has been quite fruitful as of late, with Lone Survivor being another hard hitting testosterone-tinged film, as well as their upcoming Boston Marathon Bombing film (also coming this year) looks to continue their recent winning streak. Berg works well in these real life recreations as he balances the spectacle of an exploding oil rig with the plights of his characters. At times resembling a horror film more closely than the drama it sets out to be, the filmmakers expertly blend destructive CGI fire with practical sets to an astounding degree. A tip of the hat going out for the actual explosions in the film, which were very well realized.

A large fault of the movie does come in its treatment of the actual events surrounding the film. Screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand outright vilifies members of BP without providing the moral greyness that came from both sides. Also while stated by the filmmakers that they wished to create the film to tell the story of those affected by the disaster, the extreme environmental effects still being dealt with today were relegated to a mere blip at the end of the film.

Overall Deepwater Horizon is a surprising and enthralling film that, while treading some missteps heavier than others, provides a genuine rush of adrenaline and empathy for its characters, doing justice to the people lost in the tragedy.