The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (better known as the BP oil spill) on April 20, 2010 was the biggest oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the history of the oil industry. Eleven oil rig workers lost their lives and even more injured. The impact of the spill on ocean life and surrounding communities were felt long after the spill. Six years later, Hollywood is ready to tell the story, not so much about the spill, but the toll that it took on the men and women that lived through it.
“Deepwater Horizon” is the new movie from director Peter Berg. Berg is familiar with telling stories of people put into perilous situations. He’s also familiar with working alongside Mark Wahlberg. They teamed in the tremendous “Lone Survivor” where Wahlberg played Marcus Luttrell and now Wahlberg plays Transocean worker, Mike Williams. “Deepwater Horizon” is a fascinating study of the oil business, both from the worker and adviser perspectives. It’s also an interesting study of humans when put into life and death situations. The majority of the film takes place on board the Deepwater Horizon. Observing the constant testing and precision it takes to drill these holes into the Earth was enthralling. Watching the oil rig churn and whir as if it were a live beast ready to strike added to what was already a disconcerting situation. The tense character interactions discussing the if’s and the when’s was even more involving. Knowing that even BP had to consult an onboard source, Transocean on the oil drilling was eye opening. The call on whether or not to drill is more complicated than most know and was interesting to see these scenes unfold while the noose tightens even further as the pressure builds.
It didn’t hurt that they had some A-class Hollywood talent on display to portray these everyday people. Kurt Russell’s portrayal as Transocean supervisor Jimmy Harrell is quite good. Russell’s turn as the man whose safety first mentality proceeds him in the oil business, only to have his voice of caution unheeded was effective. His counterpart in these proceedings, John Malkovich as BP Oil representative Donald Vidrine is the likable, but smarmy Creole tongued gentleman looking for his oil rig to be profitable even if all signs point to danger ahead. These two Hollywood legends are joined by Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams. Wahlberg portrays the Deepwater Horizon’s soft spoken strongman and unlikely hero ready to answer the call when all hell breaks loose. Director Peter Berg does a good job making Wahlberg look like a plausible common man doing feats of heroism. Gina Rodriguez’s portrayal as Transocean employee Andrea Fleytas should also be hailed as one that hits some emotional buttons during the latter half of the film.
Once the disaster starts on screen aboard the oil rig it doesn’t let up. It’s intense, frightening, violent, and emotionally draining. Watching the oil rig be reduced to a ticking time bomb inferno was disheartening to behold, but seeing the best of man come out in the worst situations is inspiring to say the least. If this is even close to how this occurred, the human cost at the time of the disaster was overshadowed by the spill itself. The film succeeds because it downplays the politics and potential agendas of those involved and concentrates on the men and women on board the rig willing to do what it took to save lives and attempt to stop the spill in a most dire situation. By the time these people get off the rig toward the end of the film you feel as if you’ve gone through hell with them and just as emotionally distraught. Once again, September has given us another worthwhile film for us to venture to the local multiplex. Along with “Sully”, “Deepwater Horizon” is another reason not to skip the movies during this early Fall season.