Deepwater Horizon movie full length review - Deepwater Horizon is an Masterful Example of How to Do a Disaster Movie Right
We all remember the news of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It dominated news coverage and was a terrible tragedy. It changed the course of many lives.
It absolutely deserved a movie, I just didn't anticipate it being about the crew of the Deepwater Horizon. If you're going to do a movie of this type, the combination of Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg seem like as natural choice. I really liked Lone Survivor and although I'm not going to defend Battleship, Peter Berg gets a bad rap. He knows how to tell a story and provide the big budget thrills you want from a blockbuster. I was just that much more stoked to see Deepwater Horizon after seeing the reviews. I walked away from the theatre impressed with both the heroism of the crew of the Deepwater Horizon and the quality of the movie.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* After a couple of opening shots of the Deepwater Horizon rig and the drilling pipe it uses to test for oil we join Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife Felicia (Kate Hudson). It's April 2010 and Mike is about to head out for 3 weeks out on the rig Deepwater Horizon. He's an employee of Transocean who are working for BP (British Petroleum). Before he leaves, his daughter is doing a presentation about Mike's job and how they are able to extract the oil from the land at the bottom of the ocean. He "tames the dinosaurs" as it were and his daughter begs him to bring her back a fossil so that she can trump another classmate of hers.
At the same time, other crew members such as Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez) and Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) are heading to the airport where they ship out via helicopter. On the ride out the crew catches up and shoot the breeze about what they've been up to. When they get there, they run into the team who were supposed to test the some of the safety precautions. The tests were skipped in an effort to streamline the process under the direction of some visiting BP representatives being led by Vedrine (John Malkovich). Mr. Jimmy objects but makes an effort to compromise. Both he and Mike leave the bridge angry but resolve to do the job efficiently, unbeknownst to them the fate that lies ahead.
So whether you saw the trailers for Deepwater Horizon or not, you know how the movie's going to end. The first thing I want to congratulate the movie for is that the setup is so well done. The movie introduces and develops characters that you like. The actors have such a strong camaraderie and they feel like a crew that could have been working together. The script provides them with some great dialogue and although some of the talk about the processes on the rig can be confusing, the fact that the script takes the time to do these things is great by itself. Most disaster movies treat people like cannon fodder but in this one while certain people meet their demise, you can't help but feel sorry for these unfortunate people even setting aside the fact that some of this happened.
The movie does the extra work of bringing in good dialogue and interesting characters but you also have to credit the actors for bringing them to life. This is a role that fits Mark Wahlberg perfectly, Mike Williams is the blue collar hero that Wahlberg excels at playing. It's because Mark is so great that when the plot turns and Mike has to step up, you know he'll succeed. Kurt Russell is just as good as Mr. Jimmy. He's the right balance between authoritative and compassionate. He represents the audience in many ways, questioning the relaxed safety practices of BP and trying to make judgment calls on whether they can risk looking past a sketchy test result. Russell is well cast and I was impressed. The movie also features some great supporting performances. There are a lot of people in the cast but the two that stood out to me were Gina Rodriguez and Dylan O'Brien as Andrea and Caleb respectively. They were both great and stole the scenes they were in. Kate Hudson was OK, John Malkovich has got the brunt of the criticism as Vidrine. I think he strikes a nice balance between being too aggressive or too complacent but I would agree his accent isn't the best.
The part of the movie that I haven't mentioned yet is that when things go south and the disaster happens, its not only well filmed but its really terrifying. The movie keeps flashing to the drilling pipe and the ground around it (maybe even a little too much) and with every crack or air pocket being released you grow that much more scared. There were times where I just kept flinching, expecting something to go horribly wrong at any minute. Deepwater Horizon does an excellent job of ratcheting up the tension even though we know something is going to go wrong. When it does happen, the action is brutal and you can almost feel every shot the crew takes from this gigantic machine self-destructing. Berg and crew know how to shoot these kind of scenes and the movie wouldn't be the same if things weren't as scary.
I didn't find much to complain about when it came to Deepwater Horizon. Some of the lingo was hard to follow and certain things felt exaggerated for the sake of the drama but this movie is nothing short of astounding. Excellent movies are produced when you can work with interesting material and you can get talented people in the right roles. Deepwater Horizon nails both. I'm glad that Berg and Wahlberg are continuing to collaborate and that we got a movie that showed how there can be humanity and heroism in moments against overwhelming odds.