Mon | Aug 3, 2020

Deepwater Horizon - disaster done right

Published:Sunday | October 9, 2016 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy
Mark Wahlberg in ‘Deepwater Horizon’.

Ripped from the headlines of the bygone days of 2010, Deepwater Horizon reimagines the tragic events of April 20 in which the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, causing the deaths of 11 crewmen and the worst oil spill in US history. The film focuses on the actual explosion, merely mentioning the 87 days of fallout that occurred as a result.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams, the chief engineer technician on the oil rig. At times, Mike veers into action-hero territory, making the movie feel very Die Hard On an Oil Rig. Thankfully, though, director Peter Berg and company recognise the importance of being earnest in telling the story of men and women whose lives are put at risk, yet seen as expendable, through irresponsible corporate practices.

At the core of it, the movie brings across that message well and does so without the dramatic fantasy that typically accompanies movies like these. No character feels unrealistic - which is troubling, considering the shoddy practices on display here. While I have no doubt that some events in the film were exaggerated, it didn't feel that way. Everything felt as though it could have actually happened that day.

The cast, of course, helps this. It isn't a movie that highlights any major role, as even Wahlberg's character isn't too developed. He has a family he's itching to see again, but nothing beyond that.

No, this is a film that wants to show you the events as you may not have visualised them before. That said, performances by Kurt Russell and John Malkovich as opposing figureheads make the movie feel lived in, with a strong sense of conviction.

Perhaps, what Deepwater Horizon does best is its ability to coherently bring across tension. Even when the dialogue is muddled by technical jargon, you still get a sense of the looming presence of danger felt by the characters. Even so, said jargon only aids the film's feeling of authenticity, which is always a plus in movies based on real events.

For what cannot have been an easy film to direct, everything in Deepwater Horizon feels thought out. The set painstakingly designed to emulate the now destroyed oil rig. Touches like that go a long way in making you feel like justice was done to the story it had to tell.

Rating: Big-screen Watch.