Film & TV

Film Review: Deepwater Horizon

The true story of the worst ever US oil spill disaster in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon oil exploration rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 more.

Real-life disaster stories seem more compelling than fictional. Whilst the likes of The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure achieved cult status, they lack the dramatic authenticity of factual tales. Based on America’s worst ever oil spill, Deepwater Horizon is steeped in gritty realism. As a disaster epic that actually happened, it creates a stirring ode to survival and courage.

Working on an oil rig away from his wife and daughter, Mike (Mark Wahlberg) diligently does his duties. Named ‘Deepwater Horizon’, the rig employs dozens of crew members including Jimmy (Kurt Russell) and Donald (John Malkovich). The rig is terminally damaged with thousands of gallons of oil released into the ocean as a result of a cataclysmic explosion. Helping rescue his fellow co-workers, Mike grapples with the fall-out of a disastrous day he won’t forget.

Deepwater Horizon doesn’t skimp on the explosive rendering of a terrible accident. Seeing such destruction and death almost borders on ‘disaster-porn’ territory. The strongly written characters deftly manage to sway such thoughts with strong acting and direction. Whilst, structurally, the script adheres to a somewhat standard disaster template, Deepwater Horizon holds together well. The lessons learnt from messing with nature and petty point-scoring are realistically handled under director Peter Berg’s steady gaze.

Making Deepwater Horizon effective is its ability to simply tell a complex story. How and why the event happened is clearly explained with typically amazing CGI helping the viewer understand exactly how it began. Although occasionally slowing the story down, CGI provides more dramatic weight to the unfolding drama. More could have been made about the after-shocks of the awful incident with the follow-through just as engrossing as the actual incident.

Disaster films like Deepwater Horizon show no signs of vanishing. Despite being not as gaudily kitsch as their 70s counterparts, the genre continues to develop in new ways to capture audiences. This latest wrinkle should ensnare a few new devotees to seek out past disaster epics in the hope such occurrences never happen to them.

Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Twitter: @PatrickMoore14

Rating out of 10:  7

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