This wonderfully cast disaster movie is created with such fervor and up-close intensity that it’s hard to fathom how director Peter Berg made it all come together so perfectly.
It’s extremely odd to enjoy watching something that leaves you weak in the knees once it’s over. Once the set up is done, the remainder of its 107 minutes is spent watching massive explosions that create fire plumes so large that they can only be described as horrifying.
“Deepwater Horizon” begins by introducing us to “everyman-like” Mike Williams (played by current go to “everyman” actor, Mark Wahlberg). Mike is an electrician on the drill barge called, you guessed it, the Deepwater Horizon. On the morning of Mike’s leave for the barge, his daughter shows he and his wife, Felicia (Kate Hudson), her drilling-based school science experiment which ends with an exploding Coke can/foreshadowing 101.
Once everyone gets to the rig, the Deepwater Horizon captain, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), goes head to head with British Petroleum stooge Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich), a brash Cajun pushing the crew to move forward with drilling despite Jimmy’s objections. Vidrine’s corporate cockiness is even less subtle than the exploding Coke can and there’s little doubt that his insistence means certain doom.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how many hints are dropped because everyone watching “Deepwater Horizon” knows what is coming. However, it is difficult to understand exactly why it is happening as the dialogue is so complex that the only people that can understand it may be drilling experts or engineers. Even if the exposition is simple, the language being used gives the movie an added layer of authenticity.
All worry about realism is thrown out the window from the moment that the drilling goes awry. It’s difficult to watch the workers attempt to stop the mud and oil from exploding out of the over-pressurized drill pipe knowing that ultimately, they will fail and everything is only going to get worse.
Once disaster strikes, “Deepwater Horizon” turns into one huge terrifying action sequence. Director Berg, cinematographer Enrique Chediak, and editors Gabriel Fleming and Colby Parker Jr. put together shot after shot that perfectly shows the cause of the massive fire that dooms the oil rig with cuts to the people on board as they come to grips with the inevitable.
The actors are mostly pawns moving about on the rig as various horrible things occur around them. The movie was made with mostly practical effects and the fire is omnipresent only becoming more and more frightening.
Mark Wahlberg’s “accent” comes and goes, but he’s just as reliable as usual. His overall screen presence and charisma always overshadows his faults as an actor, but the physicality of this role suits him perfectly. Without giving too much away, there’s a hero moment in “Deepwater Horizon” and Wahlberg nails it.
The highlights that don’t involve flames is the back and forth between Kurt Russell and John Malkovich. Malkovich’s accent is so fantastically thick that it’s practically dripping with gumbo and Russell proves once again to be one of the more underrated actors of the last thirty years. Their scenes are tense, yet sprinkled with humor and it’s a blast to watch them go at it.
Just like Peter Berg’s “Lone Survivor”, “Deepwater Horizon” is sure to be a crowd pleaser. There is just the right amount of environmental protest without being preachy and resists any cornball heroism. Who would have ever thought that Peter Berg would become the go-to director for telling real life stories?