MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Disaster/ Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Trace Adkins, Brad Leland, Joe Chrest, James DuMont, Dave Maldonado, Douglas M. Griffin, Juston Street, Jeremy Sande/ Runtime: 107 minutes
I think it is safe to say that the explosion of the oil rig known as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico in the year 2010 still remains one of the most tragic and horrific ecological fiascos of the past 30 years this side of the Exxon Valdez. Indeed for close to 80 days, oil poured out of the seabed and did close to irreparable damage to the ecosystem to say nothing of 11 people losing their lives aboard the rig when it blew up. The reason I bring this up is because this fiasco was the source material for a slice of cinema from 2016 known as Deepwater Horizon and I must confess that to some extent I did manage to possess a fair degree of doubt that this slice of cinema would turn out to be good. Thankfully, I can say that my doubt was quickly put to rest thanks in large part to the talent and skill on both sides of the camera in giving us as movie goers an emotionally potent and just downright engaging movie. It is with that in mind that I can say Deepwater Horizon is a wonderful blend of action and characterization that is willing to give us time to get know these characters before then putting them through the absolute wringer. No there isn’t anything really good to be gained by what happened on the Deepwater Horizon and giving the world a genuinely good film about what happened doesn’t in any way lessen the impact it had in several different areas. With that being said, at least film helmer Peter Berg and his immensely talented cast and crew were able to give us a slice of cinema that has a wonderful amount of emotional integrity with dignity and respect to those who tragically passed away in the disaster to say nothing of the horrific collateral damage to the environment. Indeed if anything, that is perhaps the best case scenario for a movie regaling us about a truly heartwrenching catastrophe in the vein of this one.
The plot is as follows: So when our slice of cinema gets underway we see that, due in large part to being quite a few days behind the proverbial corporate schedule, a group of assorted members of the 126 person crew of the Deepwater Horizon have to leave home for a 21 day shift and head out to the rig located in the Gulf of Mexico in order to put the final touches on it and ensure that their employer BP makes more money than ever before (yay yay hooray everyone). However upon arrival, we see that our hero Mr. Mike Williams, along with rig chief “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell get on board the rig, they are astonished to discover just how much of a mess the rig is. Indeed not only are a lot of integral systems on the fritz, but even more worrisome is the fact that it appears some BP company men, led by one Donald Vidrine, are cutting a lot of corners including brushing aside a necessary concrete safety test in order to get the rig to where it can start pumping oil as quickly as possible. Suffice it to say that when a test designed to make sure the pressure in the pipes is where it should be comes up slightly awry, our lovely group of scheming corporate execs find a way to write it off and move ahead as planned. Tragically, this would prove to be the final straw for the rig as later that night the rig is the recipient of a visceral and terrifying explosion. One that turns a place of work into a fiery inferno and will see no more and no less than 11 people on board tragically lose their lives and for everyone else turn yet another night on the job into a horrific and desperate fight for survival….
Now right away I think it’s safe to say that if you have even an inkling of what happened with this particular tragedy then you know the exact path this slice of cinema aims to take you down….eventually. Hats off then to this film’s helmer Mr. Peter Berg for not ever trying to misdirect you and make you think to the contrary. Indeed from about 10-15 minutes into the film and onward, Berg does a wonderful job of consistently yet subtly hinting at the calamity that is about to horrifically and tragically unfold be it through our hero’s little treating him, and by extension you the viewer, to a sneak peek of a project she is doing for class which revolves around what her dear ol’ dad does for a living and which culminates with a can of Coca-Cola turning into a miniature Spindletop or quite a few ominous looks under the surface of the water which show a lot of cracks at the base of the pipe or bubbles rising up from the ocean floor. Yet for all the ominous hints scattered throughout, we see that Berg and his screenwriting duo consisting of Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand respectively don’t find themselves in any real serious hurry to make this a beginning to end disaster epic. Rather, there is a delightful degree of restraint that is showcased with regards to setting up the cast of characters we will be following on the rig as well as the corporate machinations that are afoot to say nothing of the restrictions from both the natural and the construction angles that make set up of the rig immensely difficult. However when things quickly and horrifically go south, that’s when the film’s helmer antes things up by conjuring up for us a riveting final third that is visceral, engaging, and astonishingly quite emotional as well courtesy of complete and utter chaos explodes on board the rig and everyone onboard is forced to make their way through a maze that seems to be an equal mix of blood, oil, twisted metal, broken glass, and roaring flames. It is these moments therefore that all the relationships that were constructed before this all are put to the ultimate test in this horrific struggle of life and death. Along with that, it’s also not really that easy to determine who is horrifically injured or killed in all the chaos and anarchy. A feat that, to this slice of cinema’s credit, is because the director ingeniously puts us in the point of view of the characters who, due to the chaos, are unaware of how their friends are doing. Rather, their primary focus is on their own survival and the survival of those with them. Yet no matter what else Berg and company throw our way throughout the movie’s 107 minute runtime there is no denying that the moment when the rig finally explodes proper in this slice of cinema is worth giving this movie a view all on its own. I mean it’s one of those moments that yes is thrilling and terrifying, but at the same time it’s also quite heartbreaking and infuriating too since after all you have seen up to that point you sadly know this whole thing was completely and utterly avoidable and didn’t have to play out the way that it is before your very eyes. Suffice it to say then that yes this film might be quite engaging, but when placed in the hands of this director and his incredible team and their efforts behind the camera it also becomes quite riveting as well.
As for how this slice of cinema becomes an emotional experience, the credit for that would most assuredly have to go to the potent performances by the immensely talented cast that this slice of cinema has managed to assemble to bring this narrative to life. Indeed in the lead role of Mike Williams, we see that Mark Wahlberg manages to give us a terrific performance as an everyman who finds himself caught in an absolutely nightmarish scenario and finds he must rely on his inner fortitude and determination in order to make it out of this situation alive. The movie is also the wonderful recipient of a terrific performance from one of my favorite actors Kurt Russell as “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell a man who wears his sense of integrity and loyalty to the people who work for him as true badges of honor on his sleeve. Yet even when tragedy strikes and Jimmy finds himself grievously injured we see this man still incredibly choose to put his responsibilities to his team on a pedestal above his personal wellbeing. Suffice it to say that from his strong morals to his grumpy exterior, Russell does a truly wonderful job with this character though given his cinematic legacy that is far from surprising. We also get a wonderful turn from the always delightful John Malkovich who, whilst also utilizing a fairly impressive Southern twang, is congenial yet also appropriately infuriating as a top BP corporate type who we come to learn cares more about the almighty dollar than keeping the people who make him that dollar safe. Indeed Malkovich has a long cinematic history of playing antagonists you love to hate and this guy is no different. Along with this trinity of talent however, we also get wonderful support work from such actors as Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, and Dylan O’Brien (that’s right the same Dylan O’Brien from Maze Runner) in smaller yet no less pivotal roles. Now I do think Kate Hudson does do good work in this, but I also feel that by the same token she is sadly not used that much in the film after the first 30 minutes except for screens that would require her to cry, panic, or both.
All in all it goes without saying, but there were most likely quite a few contributing factors that led to the horrific explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon all the way back in 2010. Yet, as this slice of cinema posits, perhaps the one factor that played the biggest role of all was no more and no less than pure and unfiltered greed. Indeed no disrespect intended toward BP or anyone who works or has worked there, but there is no denying that the executives from BP made the choice to place the proverbial almighty dollar on a significantly higher pedestal than the overall health and wellbeing of the oil rig workers as well as neglected a lot of safety protocols that could most likely have saved a lot of lives. Indeed in everything we do we should always try to put people’s lives and safety first and foremost. A fact that this slice of cinema rivetingly and heart wrenchingly shows us what can happen if we as humanity make the choice not to. More than that though, the slice of cinema that is 2016’s Deepwater Horizon is a phenomenally helmed and extremely well-acted look at the untimely demise of the rig as well as the fight to survive by those who were aboard her that night rather than a look at the fallout from either a commercial or ecological point of view. It’s also a nail bitingly in terms of its intensity action slice of cinema which does a beautiful job at respecting those who sadly did not make it off the rig with their lives. Sure there are moments where it can be hard to follow what some of the characters are saying due to a lot of technical dialogue, but you don’t have to work in the same field as this slice of cinema’s cast of characters in order to comprehend just what is on the line for each and every one of them. Suffice it to say then that from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the oil rig itself, Deepwater Horizon is one visceral and downright gripping cinematic experience you most assuredly should watch at least once. On a scale of 1-5 I give Deepwater Horizon “2016” a solid 4 out of 5.