Peter Berg / Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez / Action / 2016 / 12A / 107mins
Innocent Americans, a ton of oil and British villains – the BP Gulf disaster always had the perfect ingredients for a blockbuster. Thankfully, the term ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ springs to mind.
It’s a story you’re probably all familiar with considering the press coverage, but let me cast your minds back to 2010. A massive blowout and further explosions scorch the Gulf of Mexico oil rig Deepwater Horizon. Not only did people die, but the rig released tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the sea, resulting in the worst US oil spill in history. The film follows Mike Williams (Wahlberg) amongst others as they try to battle and then survive the deadly crisis thrust upon them.
With an ecocrisis here and a banking crash there, in this day and age it’s hard not to consume apocalypse flicks like fast food forgetting that they have zero application. I guess what I’m getting at is their integrity. Deepwater Horizon offers a true story and suddenly all the characters have ten times more depth rather than simmering in the old hobo ‘END IS NIGH’ mantra we so often watch.
Point in mind, Peter Berg’s ability to make a disaster relatable is truly satisfying. Not only are the majority of the heroes working class but, crucially, this disaster was real and actually more dangerous in the long run than the action portrayed onscreen: the real horror is real life, and that’s scary.
Solid acting is necessary to create a believable environment to carry the story along. Thankfully we’re blessed with Wahlberg and Russell at their peaks and confident newcomers in Dylan O’Brien and Gina Rodriguez. John Malkovich makes for a fine villain too, albeit one with a ridiculous accent.
Carefully crafted editing cuts to the chase, tension builds with German efficiency and the rhythm is as ruthless as the oil industry. The effects, computer and real, combine to create an immersive, seemingly accurate experience as the drama unfolds. I am sure there is a lack of science somewhere, but it’s not overly obvious.
Although it falls foul of some Americana tropes – the group prayer at the end is a fantastically cliched example – Deepwater Horizon is a great disaster movie. Hell, this is Berg’s best movie. Previous efforts, like Hancock, were half-good funny films that made for prime Christmas/Easter break TV dinner waffle. Deepwater Horizon marks a step up in every quarter.
It’s remarkable that it’s taken 16 years for the 21st century to produce a satisfying disaster movie, and it’s high praise that I stand by. Erase the catastrophes that were The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, the DVD that will be the pinnacle of your home movie collection will be Deepwater Horizon.
Film as a Film – 3 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 4
Deepwater Horizon is in cinemas now
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