GENRE: Drama, Disaster
DIRECTOR: Peter Berg
STARS: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich
PLOT: Chronicling the courage of those who worked on the Deepwater Horizon and the extreme moments of bravery and survival in the face of what would become one of the biggest man-made disasters in world history.
A couple of months ago on the MovieMuse Podcast, the team discussed how soon was too soon when making a movie of a real life disaster. Whilst we may not have managed to get a unanimous agreement on that question, Deepwater Horizon feels pretty close to the line.
Just six years after eleven men died in America’s worst ever oil disaster, Mark Wahlberg puts on his hero boots to bring us the 70% true account (according to Mike Williams, the man that Wahlberg plays) of that fateful day.
Mike is the chief electronics technician on the rig and along with ‘Mr. Jimmy’, the crew manager played by Kurt Russel, he keeps the drills drilling and the pumps pumping. Arriving at the rig for a 3 week stint they find that the previous crew has been sent back home early by the penny pinching oil company execs, without completing their scheduled safety tests. It is from this point that we are thrown into the chaos as an initial slow burn explodes into a fiery tempest twisted metal, broken limbs and lost lives.
Director Peter Berg has experience of maritime blockbusters from his work on the 2012 disappointment Battleship and this is used extremely well as the 320ft drilling rig and its 146 crew are tossed and blown, battered and burned for an hour long assault on the eyes and the heart. There are times that will make you stare wide eyed and agog, then there are times that will make your eyes fill and your gut sink. But unfortunately Berg is too often stuck in disaster movie mode and the film certainly isn’t without faults.
At the start we are treated to a little backstory on Mike. A devoted husband and father with a doting daughter who is just oh so proud of her daddy. The perfect family unit is ladled on a little thick though and I really must question the choice of Kate Hudson as his loving wife. Whilst she plays the part perfectly functionally, the standard true-to-life-drama photo montage at the end of the film shows a lady who you feel would be nothing like the character on show (in looks or lifestyle). Furthermore, the overeagerness to ensure that BP are presented as the devil’s less trustful brother teeters on pantomime. We also get a dreadful attempt at CGI rag-doll physics as a plucky operator is thrown from his crane gantry into the flaming sea.
But the quality of the acting (both Russell and Malkovich are great), the scale of the visuals and the sheer emotion of the film at its heights are enough to gloss over its shortcomings. Deepwater Horizon isn’t the perfect way to tell a true tale, nor is it the greatest disaster movie, but it ticks enough boxes in truth, action, heart and drama to be a highly entertaining movie in its own right.