Deepwater Horizon

Deepwater Horizon

In Theatres: 
Sep 30, 2016
Running Time: 
107 minutes

The Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill in 2010 was the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, killing 11 workers and dumping 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was an event we all followed on television as it unfolded and one we’re still feeling the environmental impact of even to this day. Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, but a sharp focus makes it personal and therefore all the more terrifying.


The film opens with audio from the court hearings of the resulting lawsuit as the real Mike Williams, Deepwater Horizon’s Chief Electronics Technician, begins to describe what happened on the night of the explosion. There are no visuals so his words carry more weight with them and immediately showcase the serious tone of the film. Mark Wahlberg stars as Williams and he delivers one of his best performance since his last team up with Berg in Lone Survivor. He’s not Mark the action hero; he’s just a regular guy trying to survive this disaster.


Deepwater Horizon is about the people aboard the oil rig as much as it is about the explosion. We’re given a brief glimpse into Williams’ life and family before he leaves, which makes his fight for survival after the explosion all the more impactful. You want to see him return to his wife and daughter, and it’s all the more devastating for the families of the 11 workers who don’t. The first two acts of the film are tense as we see the series of events that ultimately led up to the explosion.


John Malkovich stars as Donald Vidrine, a BP supervisor aboard the rig and one of the biggest villains of the year as he cuts corners and rushes  important tasks because the rig is more than 40 days behind schedule. He only speaks in terms of dollars so safety is the least of his worries. His only goal is to get back on schedule so BP can line their pockets with the black gold deep beneath the ocean floor. Fighting him at every turn is Kurt Russell’s Jimmy Harrell, the Installation Manager of the Deepwater Horizon and man running the operation. There’s a clear separation of the rig workers, like Jimmy and Mike, and the suits at BP who are only briefly there to get an update on how their rig is doing.


When the explosion does finally happen, all chaos breaks loose. Everything is engulfed in flames and hallways and rooms create a claustrophobic atmosphere. It’s shockingly realistic and you can practically feel the heat emanating from the screen. Berg brilliantly captures the mayhem and struggle for survival with a precision and tone above your standard action thriller. There’s an immediacy to it that makes the film simply terrifying.


Deepwater Horizon will make you hate BP. They’re the ones ultimately responsible for the disaster and the film makes that abundantly clear by shows the corners they cut, all in the name of greed. The film may be a dramatization, but it’s one of the best dramatizations of real life events in recent years. It makes one of the worst environmental disasters terrifyingly intimate. It’s exhilarating and devastating at the same time. The events that happened back in 2010 may have faded lately, but Deepwater Horizon brings them back to the forefront in spectacular fashion.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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