Deepwater Horizon

A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster, when the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

 

Director: Peter Berg

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Dylan O’Brien, Ethan Suplee

Rated: PG-13 (prolonged intense disaster sequences and related disturbing images)

 

Deepwater Horizon

By Matt Greene

Deepwater Horizon can seem like a “rah-rah humanity” movie whose ceiling of quality is “pretty good”, and more likely just a forgettable thriller-drama. Imagine my surprise when that it’s not only good, but actually kinda great. Combining the harrowing real-life thrills of the sinking boat in Titanic with the humanity and tone of Captain Phillips, this is the one of the best American heroism story in years. With enveloping dialogue, likable characters and heart-pounding scares, DH hits all its targets with concrete precision.

Shot in a steady cinema-verite style, the story of the oil-slick disaster that lead to the 2010 BP spill is one that greatly benefits from slam-cuts, handheld shooting and sweeping aerials. At times, this almost POV cinematography creates some confusion, but usually it just places us within an effectively disorienting state surrounded by explosions, hysteria, and screaming.

What makes the intensity work is the characters. We care about them because of their relationships to each other. Wahlberg gives an unpretentiously solid performance at the center, Russell stands affably strong throughout, Rodriguez continues her deserving ascent to superstardom (checkout CW’s “Jane the Virgin”), and Hudson is better than ever in a heartbreakingly authentic role. Her line reading of “Not now, baby” is an emotional gut-punch.

As a citizen on the Gulf Coast, it’s impossible not to feel this story more intensely. This may explain why it’s not too big of a problem that every white-collar BP man is portrayed so one-dimensionally…although it wasn’t great, and Malkovich’s Cajun accent was almost the death of me. However, this story-we-don’t-know-behind-the-headlines-we-do adventure is such a well-oiled, character-based thrill ride, it’s hard not be engulfed.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

Deepwater Horizon

By Cole Schneider

“Deepwater Horizon” is a disaster-drama with some visual elements that work and some fundamental storytelling banalities that are so rote that they diminish the paper-thin drama existing underneath them. The true-life narrative follows an ensemble of workers on the infamous day of the disaster at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s not particularly interested in the larger environmental impact of the spill, focusing instead on a few individuals who dealt with the explosion on-site. There is a compelling story to be told, though it’s debatable whether “Deepwater Horizon” tells it.

There are at least two things the film does remarkably well. It’s action and dynamics are wonderful, including top-notch special effects and set pieces; and it gets some great performances from its cast including great turns from Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, and John Malkovich, who chews absolutely everything he can from his slimy-but-empty villain in a BP shirt. Beyond its action and acting though, we’re left with 5,000 feet of clichés.

There’s no reason for a film with this much action and stakes this large to be this much of a slog to get through. Its characters are silhouettes chasing after the full-bodied characters of better movies. Its plot is a manipulative partner, pitifully begging to pull you back into his lies. Its themes omit a gulf of unexplored oil-water and instead swim in the kiddie pool of lackluster films, lacking both ambition and scope.

All that remains is a tired film, weighed down by the small pleasures of watching the good guys make it out while the rig of capitalism burns in the background with an American flag waving goodbye in the mid-ground.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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