Deepwater Horizon Movie Review


Charley Trask, Spear Reporter

Spoiler Warning
Deepwater Horizon makes the emergency landing of Sully look like a fun afternoon on a merry-go-round.
The disaster film (Rated PG-13), which revisits the unfortunate 2010 oil-rig explosion and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even though you’re safe in your theater seat, director Peter Berg’s filmmaking is so immersive that it’s hard not to feel the gritty rescue scenes, be mesmerized by the flammable carnage or get belatedly enraged by the idiocy of oil-company bureaucracy.

Horizon eases into the fury by first focusing on the working-class crew on the oil rig, including chief electrician Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and dynamic positioning officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez). Berg captures the personalities and home lives of his characters in intimate small-town fashion so you know them once trouble starts. And, oh, is there some serious trouble.

Once everybody’s aboard the rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana and drilling 5,000 feet below sea level, the situation heats up: The current job is $53 million and 43 days over budget. The workers — supervised by Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), a gruff yet good-hearted guy everybody calls “Mr. Jimmy” — are feeling the pressure from BP executives like Don Vidrine (John Malkovich), who are “visiting” to make sure things start moving more efficiently.

There’s a lot of technobabble involving pressure tests and kill lines, though all you really need to know is the right safety measures aren’t taken, there’s a massive mishap and everybody’s fighting to survive for the latter half of the movie.

Russell seems to be the only one who can keep his bayou-ready accent going for any amount of time, and some of the characters are one-dimensional, but the acting is solid for the most part. Wahlberg gets to share some screen-within-screen FaceTime with Kate Hudson, who plays Mike’s worried wife back home, and he, Russell and Rodriguez put in strong performances during the fight to get off the oil rig alive.

Horizon, though, works best when it’s a full-on action thriller, and the complete onslaught of mud, fire and deadly circumstance that Berg crafts here is mighty impressive. In the middle of the towering inferno, various characters are forced to make life-or-death decisions in the moment, and those prove to be more thought-provoking than melodramatic.

You root for the workers to make it and hope the BP antagonists get their comeuppance (since they are a smarmy, penny-pinching bunch), yet Berg does the right thing and continues the story past the rescue. Some of the most emotional moments come in that aftermath, where anger gives way to relief. However, the pain never subsides as everyone’s wrecked by the incident, even those standing at the end.

While Deepwater Horizon effectively shows its mettle as a proper action film, it goes the extra mile and drills a little deeper to unearth a lot of heart as well. I would give it a 8/10