Friday, September 30, 2016


In the 1970’s, one of the most popular genres in cinema was the disaster flick, in which everyday people were faced with insurmountable odds in surviving real-world disasters; ranging from air travel (AIRPORT), high-rise fires (THE TOWERING INFERNO) and ships at sea (THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE). Today, Hollywood is quick to jump on the latest catastrophe, which brings us to Peter Berg’s DEEPWATER HORIZON; the true story of the oil rig which exploded in 2010…killing 11 people and spewing millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.

The oil-exploratory rig Deepwater Horizon, just 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, is 43 days behind schedule and millions of dollars over-budget. The chief tech Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), crew leader Mr. Jimmy (Kurt Russell) and officer Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez), try to keep things together despite being pushed by BP Oil representative Donald Vidrine (John Malkovich) to keep drilling despite the eminent danger.

DEEPWATER HORIZON is very much inspired by the disaster-film template from the 1970’s, where characters are introduced, fleshed-out, and then thrown into some sort of large-scale deadly situation which is caused by some greedy bastard trying to make a few million bucks. At the center of this is Mike Williams, who only wants do his job and go home to his loving wife and family (with the wife brilliantly played by Kate Hudson). There’s a lot of blue-collar vs. white-collar going on here, as Mike and Mr. Jimmy constantly bang heads with the management types concerning the problems with the rig.

Offshore exploratory drilling is not easy to explain, and director Peter Berg uses nearly the entire first act in explaining how it works…using the constant arguing between the workers and management as a tool to accomplish this. A lot of the technical jargon comes off as Ancient Greek, but many exceffective ellent visuals are presented to help the audience along. It sounds dull, but once the troubles start, it pays off.

The lead-up to those troubles is a wonderful build, and the atmosphere of tension and dread hangs heavy over the film. Once things go south and oil blows everywhere leading to one hell of a KABOOM, Peter Berg’s film shifts into high gear. The story goes into survival mode with characters trying to evade the flames, save their fellow workers, and keep the rig from blowing more oil into the ocean. The situations the characters find themselves on the burning rig are harrowing and the film is loaded with plenty of holy shit moments. The visuals are stunning, Steve Jablonsky’s score adds to the power of it, and as tragic as the story is, DEEPWATER HORIZON is an eye-popping heart-stopper.

With so much spectacle going on, characters become even more important, and Berg does not drop the ball in getting great performances out of his cast. Mark Wahlberg is fantastic, going through a lot of physical work and showing every bit of needed emotion. Kurt Russell is equally great, and his scenes facing off with John Malkovich are a treat.

With all of the exploding and burning going on, Berg never fails to keep this as a family story, and Mike getting home to his wife and child serves as the emotional punch at the finale which is promised to bring a hefty amount of tears. And just as a parting gift, Berg adds in a nice tribute to the men who lost their lives on that night…making DEEPWATER HORIZON a proper historical drama. This is by far Berg’s finest film; a perfect balance of spectacle and triumph of the human spirit.