In 2010, an estimated 4.2 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, creating the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The culprit, an uncapped BP wellhead, that for 87 days released oil and methane gas into the ocean. The effects of the catastrophe are still felt today due to the lingering environmental damage. BP was found liable and ordered to pay a $20 billion settlement.
But what exactly happened that fateful day to cause such a disastrous event? That is what the movie Deepwater Horizon aims to share with viewers, through the brave souls who fought for their lives on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig as it exploded all around them.
Helmed by Director Peter Berg (Lone Survivor, Battleship), Deepwater Horizon chooses very carefully how it portrays the events leading up to the disaster. Put simply, the BP company men are instantly the enemy. From the first words that come out of Vidrine’s mouth, played effortlessly by John Malkovich, there is no question where the blame will be laid when disaster strikes. While hero duty appears to be split between two of the crew: man-in-charge of the Deepwater Horizon, Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and engineer Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg). Russell quickly commands a room as Harrell, but it’s Wahlberg’s turn as Williams that just may shock audiences. His performance is fantastic; it’s as if he left every other cookie-cutter character he’s played in the past and dug deep to a place many of us likely didn’t think was possible. Well, Wahlberg has proven himself with Deepwater Horizon, and the bravery he portrays in Williams will get your emotions racing.
Deepwater Horizon takes its time to point out exactly what happened on the rig before and after it exploded into flames, unleashing a certain form of hell. It’s a great deal of logistics being ignored for the pursuit of profits. The build-up to the first sign that something is definitely wrong with the well is interesting enough to maintain the viewer, although more attention to including layman details could have made the information less dense. The anticipation of knowing disaster is coming, of expecting at any moment that the well will give, the ocean floor will erupt in man-made chaos, and the lives of the men and woman on the ship will never be the same consistently builds as each test is performed on the well and every argument over its integrity is made. There’s no doubt that the well should never have been given the green light by BP, but that’s common knowledge in the real world. Deepwater Horizon is aware of that, so it offers what court hearings, newscasts, and the written word cannot: a front row seat to the horror the crew of the Deepwater Horizon experienced.
The first major explosion will make you gasp, and what comes next will enthrall you as each moment passes and the situation grows more and more intense. There’s no escaping the horror; Berg has made a point to put you directly in the action — that is what makes Deepwater Horizon a movie made for the big screen.
The film is not without its faults (the lack of the word oil being used is an odd choice), but most will go unnoticed as the action overwhelms, the immense bravery of the crew is put clearly on display, and the determination of Williams to survive tugs wildly at a viewer’s emotions. Deepwater Horizon delivers as it should, and will undoubtedly make an impression on everyone.