There is something about a true story that makes it appealing to a broad audience. The premise may simply interesting peaking curiosity or it might be the empathy of normal people doing extraordinary things. It might be an age thing too. I’ve found myself resonating with true stories of survival more and more. Deepwater Horizon was not a film on my radar. I knew it was about the oil rig disaster off the coast of Louisiana and that wasn’t exactly enough to pay attention to it. Yet seeing the film I discovered a solid disaster movie that’s premise is far more interesting than anticipated and a story that caused more emotional reactions than I like to admit. Find out more in our review of Deepwater Horizon.
Deepwater Horizon tells a fairly straightforward story of the true events of April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It follows a number of different crew members as they deal with the emergency and try to survive.
I can’t think of the last time that I thought about an oil rig. I imagine it’s probably the same for you. It’s probably an assumption that Deepwater Horizon’s director Peter Berg held in mind when he created his story. The oil rig of Deepwater Horizon is a character unto itself. At first, it’s about life on a rig, the quirks, the isolation, the technology basically things you’ve never considered when putting petrol in your car. It’s like a documentary short that normally you wouldn’t pay attention to but wrapped in a story you might be more inclined to watch.
Of course, it’s not just a factual overview but the ominous disaster that haunts our story. It’s the rattle of a pipe, the loosening of things that should be solid, of things that don’t work or safety measures that are ignored. You know before long things are going to go wrong and that they do from exploding oil drills, fire, explosions and just the general chaos as you would expect it. It’s exciting and tense and effective as a disaster movie. It’s all the more impactful because they have taken the time to get to know the Oil Rig before things go badly.
Yet despite the disaster and the overall feeling of this characterisation of the oil rig, it’s a tale of people and their struggle to survive the circumstances. Deepwater Horizon has a wonderful cast to display that survival story. Mark Wahlberg plays Mike Williams a head electrician on the rig, Kurt Russell plays Jimmy Harrell the chief of the rig and Gina Rodriguez the chief pilot. All bring in performances that are well-acted but not showy, particularly giving that every day person kind of feel.
Ultimately the casting helps sell a deeply human story. An affecting one and I found myself tearing up a little. It’s the helplessness of loved ones who look on while things are going on that I struggled with. I had a similar reaction in last year’s Everest. This isn’t a tale filled with complicated emotions but I think their earnestness makes it just a bit easier for them to be accessed.
Deepwater Horizons wants to tell you it’s human story and while that is one of its greatest asset it also makes it blind to some of the mistakes it is making. One is to paint BP as the villain of this saga and what causes the oil rig is perhaps a far more complicated matter of the drive of capitalism. While having John Malkovich as the head representative of BP is inspired casting it seems a little bit obvious to paint the greedy company man as the villain. It might have truth to it but has less motivations than a standard villain so it all seems a little cartoonish. It also doesn’t actual explain how there were a number of different companies responsible.
Yet it’s not this desire to paint BP as the bad guys that bring undone a lot of the goodwill that the film generates rather it is the virtual ignoring of the environmental effects of an uncapped well. The environmental cost was staggering, industries that relied on fishing warrant little more than a note over the credits. There is the tragedy of eleven lives lost but there was a bigger fallout and to ignore that seems a little trivial.
Deepwater Horizon Review Cheat Sheet
Deepwater Horizon is a powerful, efficient and competent retelling of the disaster at the oil rig of the same name. With solid performances and a curiosity about its subject matter it is a solid true story. Its desire to simplistically portrays villains and ignore environmental tragedy lesson its impact and probably its place amongst other films. Worth watching probably only once.
+ Great cast goes for everyday people, not showy moments.
+ Lots of chaotic destruction.
+ Oil rig is a fascinating character to itself.
+ Pulls you in emotionally
-A Simplistic portrayal of all parties involved.
-Ignores the environmental fallout of the disaster