Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez
Director: Peter Berg
Running Time: 107 mins
Deepwater Horizon is an American film about the true story of a devastating oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and the people who bravely fought to save the lives of as many people on board as possible in the face of an unprecedented accident.
This is the sort of jingoistic, big-budget and hulking blockbuster you’d expect from the likes of Michael Bay, but Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon is in fact a truly thrilling film. Apart from being a massively entertaining and exciting blockbuster, it’s actually a very tender and respectful story about the people on board the Deepwater Horizon when the accident occurred, bringing with it often intense emotional power that I just didn’t expect at all.
Let’s start off by looking at the screenplay here, which is expertly written. It’s one of those true stories that you wouldn’t really ever expect to hear amidst the greater context of an international disaster like this one, however the way that the film manages to weave together a narrative about the conduct of the BP organisation leading up to the accident and a very personal story about a select few people on board is incredibly impressive.
What’s more is that the dialogue here is incredibly realistic. The first 30 minutes effectively consists of people talking about oil and drills, using words and terms that you’ve never heard in your entire life. And yet, with all this jargon flying around, it’s still totally gripping to watch, brilliantly building the central characters’ relationships and the wider context in which the disaster will begin to unfold.
The result of that is a film that’s not only entertaining because it’s full of explosions, but one that is truly riveting from start to finish, whether we’re just watching a conversation about a mundane pressure test, or following our hero through the flaming wreckage as he desperately tries to save the lives of everyone on board, something that Peter Berg achieved very well in Lone Survivor, but otherwise isn’t seen all that often from Hollywood.
Peter Berg’s directing is something else that really deserves huge praise. Largely due to the fact that he manages to make both the business of oil drilling and big explosions fascinating, but also because of how he portrays the real-life stories of the Deepwater Horizon. Yes, this film is often in the vein of Michael Bay’s strong patriotism, and the good guys here are presented as rugged, down-to-earth American heroes, but it’s still done in such a respectful and measured way that it doesn’t come off as unnecessarily jingoistic.
In tandem with the screenplay, Berg’s direction helps to establish the characters very rapidly, all the while showing their place within the bigger scandal that we all saw on the news when the story broke in 2010, and that means it’s incredibly easy to sympathise with the main characters and really feel for them when the going gets tough. As the disaster unfolds, it feels and looks a lot like the final act of Titanic, following our heroes as they bravely do all they can to save people’s lives on a rapidly sinking vessel.
Finally, we have to talk about the performances. At the centre of it all is Mark Wahlberg, who is absolutely fantastic. We already know how good an action hero he can be, but he builds on that and, like Lone Survivor, brings us so close to an incredibly brave and good person that it makes the film all the more personal and emotional to watch. Meanwhile, Kurt Russell is effortlessly charismatic as the fixer on board the Deepwater Horizon, meaning that you really don’t want any harm to come to him in the disaster, Gina Rodriguez is excellent in a smaller supporting role, and even John Malkovich, as the negligent and pushy BP executive on board, is absolutely brilliant, getting really under my skin at every moment he pushes back against the professionals.
Overall, Deepwater Horizon is a brilliant film, and one that’s not only a thrilling and hugely exciting blockbuster, but also one that is respectful, intelligent and absolutely riveting when it comes to portraying this hugely significant real-life disaster. With an amazing screenplay, incredible directing and excellent performances, it’s a film that I urge you to see, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.5.