In 2010 eleven men lost their lives in a catastrophic fire on the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig situated in the Gulf of Mexico. Directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg as our rig employee Mike Williams, Deepwater Horizon is the movie adaption of these events.
It is difficult not to compare Balthasar Kormákur’s Everest (2015) with this film. Kormákur skilfully told a tragic story and trusted the audience to come to their own conclusions as to the attribution of responsibility. Berg , however, let’s you know who are the heroes and who are the villains from the get go. I am not an expert on the legal ramifications of the Deepwater disaster, or the apportionment of blame, but from a characterisation perspective I feel the film loses something in not allowing for more subtlety in this area.
That said, Deepwater Horizon is a powerful film, as you would expect with such subject matter. Wahlberg is convincing as the ‘everyman’ hero of the piece, and Kurt Russell provides gravitas as rig chief Jimmy Harrell. The film uses humour and a naturalistic ‘hand held’ camera style to bring us into the busy, dangerous world of life on a deep sea drilling rig. Berg spends a respectful amount of time establishing characters and setting, building tension as we move towards the terrible event. The cinematic representation of the disaster itself feels brutal and raw. The confusion and horror of the incident is captured well, as are the heroic actions performed by many of the crew.
I went into this movie with little knowledge of the Deepwater Horizon, aside the terrible event itself as reported in UK media at the time. No background knowledge is required to be moved by this film. Functional and hitting all the right beats, Deepwater Horizon is a solid and respectful piece of film making.