The start of America’s worst oil disaster is brought to the big screen in “Deepwater Horizon,” directed by Peter Berg, who previously helmed “Lone Survivor.”
Much of the film takes place on the now infamous drilling rig and while many true-to-life characters are featured, the movie mainly focuses on Mike Williams, played by Mark Wahlberg. After the initial setup, showing Williams’ home and family life, the movie picks up with him going back to the rig with his coworkers Andrea (Gina Rodriguez) and Jimmy (Kurt Russell).
Once the characters are on the rig, the film documents how the disaster of Deepwater Horizon unfolded, from the BP company skipping on safety checks to the eventual explosions and finally the evacuation of the rig.
What works best about this flick is the significant attention to detail through Berg’s direction. Both the fantastic exploration of the rig’s technical problems and the horrific sequences after the explosion brought to life for the screen make “Deepwater Horizon” an immersive experience.
For that reason, when the rig becomes more and more of a terrifying inferno, it makes you feel as if you’re right there on that platform in the middle of fire and twisted metal. Subsequently, this makes the final third of the picture feel claustrophobic and suspenseful creating an effective thriller.
With that said, the Deepwater Horizon has a story framework that goes by the books a little too much. There’s the setup, disaster and escape, but knowing what happened after the events on the rig, it seemed there should have been a little more to this picture.
While the movie does make note of the 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, the aftermath isn’t dramatized leaving the movie feeling like just a standard disaster flick instead of something deeper.
That’s not to say the issues with the rig aren’t explored, the script makes a point to describe the numerous issues, missed tests and corporate negligence that occurred, but the film could have shown some of what happened after. In fact, this was a main strength that “Sully,” the film about the landing on the Hudson river, did better.
In terms of acting, Wahlberg gives a serviceable performance as the ‘blue-collar everyman’ and his moments of heroism are especially convincing. Russell, meanwhile, certainly brings a level of rugged charm to his role, yet his character was a bit generic at points and not very memorable.
Probably the worst in the film was John Malkovich, who played a BP executive. Malkovich was portraying the character as a rather arrogant corporate official, but he seemed to play the role a bit too over the top, having an incredibly thick accent and having every word of dialogue drip with greed. It’s understandable what he’s going for, but a little subtlety would have gone a longer way.
Ultimately Malkovich becomes a bit of a distraction.
“Deepwater Horizon” is an exciting and suspenseful experience at the cinema. Berg fully brings the disaster to life and puts audiences right in the middle of it, and it’s helped for the most part by its cast that gives performances that, while not award worthy, work for a genre picture. The story is too formulaic, not enough of the aftermath is shown and Malkovich’s performance is a bit too troublesome for this to be a real classic, though. 3 out of 5.