It’s been six years since the BP oil spill off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Not only was it the biggest oil spill disaster in history, but the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, caught fire and exploded prior to the spill, killing eleven people and injuring many others. “Deepwater Horizon” is about this explosion, the people it impacted, and the hours leading up to a bad decision and its aftermath. The film is eventful, intense, and thrilling, and skips out on the massive heroics; instead focusing on the very human reactions the explosion brought to light.
The morning of April 20, 2010 wasn’t unlike any other for Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg). He woke up, had breakfast with his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter, and then headed out to his job at Deepwater Horizon off the coast of Louisiana. Having worked there for years, his job was to ensure that all equipment was tested before drilling further into the ocean. That morning, however, BP employees left before making a single systems check. BP was getting impatient as they were very, very behind on the drilling project and going into more debt every day because of it. Ultimately, their bad decision leads to an explosion that dumps gallons upon gallons of oil into the ocean and kills several employees.
The film, although much wasn’t expected from it, really steps up its game in terms of heightening the tensions between the head honchos at BP who, already days behind and thousands of dollars over budget, are desperate, and the Deepwater Horizon crew. The story does overindulge a bit by reminding us, more than a few times, that BP’s decision was wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. And if anyone has mastered playing a shady businessman, it’s John Malkovich, who’s perfectly cast here. Malkovich’s character is displeased with the project and everyone’s need to double check everything. He’s also unyielding in his final decision, which prove disastrous for all involved. Malkovich isn’t overly smarmy, but there is an underlying arrogance and sense of might that surrounds every aspect of his persona.
Mark Wahlberg and Kurt Russell also put in good performances. Both characters are passionate and skilled, distrustful and wary of Malkovich’s presence and authority. Gina Rodriguez, the only other female in the cast besides Kate Hudson, is presented as smart and good at her job, even when her male costars unfortunately take precedence.
There’s a lot of technical speak that permeates the entire film, and often, entire conversations. It’s all explained within the film, but perhaps the most important explanation comes at the start of the movie when Mike’s daughter is using a soda can to explain and foreshadow what will happen later.
The last hour of the film is non-stop survival action. There are explosions and people struggling to get off the drilling rig. Director Peter Berg doesn’t take advantage of the characters’ pain so much as he uses it to keep the film grounded. The events and suspense are harrowing, all of which create an intense atmosphere that brings you into the film and latches onto your sympathy. “Deepwater Horizon” is full of suspense, action, and drama and it combines all three of these aspects fairly well, culminating in a film that’s well worth the watch.
"Deepwater Horizon" is high-octane and intense, but pauses to slow down in moments of human fragility. It's a film that's well worth the watch.