Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Gina Rodriguez, James DuMont, Dylan O’Brien, Douglas M. Griffin
Written by: Matthew Michael Carnahan, (also screen story) Matthew Sand, (based on the article) David Rohde and Stephanie Saul
Running Time: 107 mins
Release date: 30th September 2016
Back in the 70’s, the disaster movie, especially those made by producer Irwin Allen, were king. Films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno were grand on scale, full of suspense and had a sense of realism by having the actors running around genuine sets where the films were set. Deepwater Horizon, based on the true events that occurred in 2010, has the same feel of a 70’s disaster movie and regardless of the somewhat cheesy trailer, this is a cracking adventure film.
Deepwater Horizon is an offshore oil rig, filled with family men and one woman, as well as members of an oil company who are just interested in money, When a test to see if pressure in the main drill goes horribly wrong, the rig becomes an inferno as a mix of oil and gas engulfs the platform, causing a major disaster that led to the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.
Director Peter Berg, whose previous output includes the laughable Battleships and the jingoistic Lone Survivor, this time, hits the target with an incredibly tense, exciting and visceral tale of heroism. It follows a family man, Mike Williams as he prepares to leave his wife and daughter for a three-week stint on the rig. Once there, for the first half, we get to the macho world of riggers while the management battle with the oil company who have hired the rig to drill.
This first half is full of technobabble as the oil company men are accused of not doing their job in order to save money. Throughout these early scenes, we see the bottom of the drill, with cracks in the earth causing a slow release of bubbles, signalling that something bad is going to happen. Berg twists the tension even more during the doomed testing. We see the mud seeping through the rig. We see the build-up of gas slipping through the air vents heading to the firing pistons that power the rig. Then it’s kaboom!
Berg doesn’t hold back on the effects as the whole rig becomes a massive fireball. With the heady mix of sound and visuals, you are placed right in the centre of the action, which quickly becomes a disaster area and it’s up to the bravery of the men as they desperately try to escape this enormous blaze. You then can’t forget that this isn’t a piece of fiction like the Irwin Allen films and the tension becomes almost unbearable.
The performances are all good. Mark Wahlberg is very good at playing the ordinary working man, although his perfect family life (married to Kate Hudson) does seem way too Hollywood perfect. Kurt Russel, donning an impressive under nose hairy lip, is always good value, while John Malkovich literally chews up the scenery with the oddest accent heard this year, as the management man.
This isn’t about performances. This is about recognising those men who lost their lives in this tragic accident and Berg does that too. The end credits include a poignant sequence showing the survivors talking about their experience while a montage of photos shares the names of those who didn’t escape the fiery platform. A powerful, full-on adventure which may be a little talky in the first half, certainly delivers the thrills by the second.