Deepwater Horizon - Movie Review

  • 29 September 2016

Rating: 3 out of 5

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor to their previous collaboration Lone Survivor, another true story adapted into a movie that wallows in both heroism and violence. This film recounts the events of April 2010, when a drilling rig off the coast of Louisiana exploded, creating the biggest oil-spill in US history. It's the story of the people who were working there, and while there's a clear attempt to honour the memory of the 11 men who died that night, the cast and crew also want to create an entertaining action-disaster movie.

Wahlberg plays Mike, the chief technician on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil platform more than a half-hour flight from land. As the film opens, he kisses his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter goodbye and heads off for a three-week shift alongside boss Jimmy (Kurt Russell), drilling foreman Jason (Ethan Suplee) and pilot Andrea (Gina Rodriguez). When some discrepancies delay their work, Mike finds himself under pressure from the corporate boss (John Malkovich) to get on with the work and get back on schedule. Under order to ignore some questionable safety tests, they carry on drilling until the well erupts, triggering a massive ball of flame.

After the increasingly tense build-up, the movie becomes a more traditional disaster movie, as characters run for their lives or dive into the inferno to save someone. Some of this is cleverly conceived and played out, including several striking set-pieces. But the main focus here is on rah-rah courage. The most heroic roles go to Wahlberg, Russell, O'Brien (as a driller) and Kirkpatrick (as a crane operator). While Malkovich chomps deliciously and villainously on the scenery. But the most engaging role goes to Rodriguez as a woman who is genuinely terrified about what's happening but still manages to do her job. She's the only person on-screen who feels like a real person, and the irony isn't lost that she's also the only woman among this crew of macho tough guys.

The general lack of fear or doubt among these men is the biggest flaw in the film. It's understandable that the screenwriters are keen to memorialise the men who died and those who fought against the odds to rescue their crewmates. So most of the action is genuinely thrilling. But it's sometimes impossible to work out what's happening to whom in the usual shaky-cam aesthetic. And there's also the nagging sense that the chaotic violence is a bit more entertaining that it ought to be.

Rich Cline

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Image caption Deepwater Horizon

Facts and Figures

Year: 2016

Genre: Action/Adventure

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th September 2016

Budget: $156M

Distributed by: Lionsgate

Production compaines: Di Bonaventura Pictures, Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate, Participant Productions, Participant Media

Reviews 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Peter Berg

Producer: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Wahlberg, Mark Vahradian, Stephen Levinson, David Womark

Screenwriter: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Matthew Sand

Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams, Dylan O'Brien as Caleb Holloway, Kate Hudson as Felicita Williams, Kurt Russell as Jimmy Harrell, John Malkovich as Vidrine, Gina Rodriguez as Andrea Fleytas, Brad Leland as Robert Kaluza, J.D. Evermore as Dewey Revette, Ethan Suplee as Jason Anderson, Sue-Lynn Ansari as Passengers, Douglas M. Griffin as Landry, Joe Chrest as David Sims, James DuMont as Patrick O'Bryan, Chris Ashworth as Coast Guard Commander

Also starring: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, David Womark, Matthew Michael Carnahan